La Saveur de la vie - Annual Halloween Serial
What follows is a serial horror novel, written in chapters every October starting in 2012. The most recent chapter Part XII, Virginité et Innocence, Is coming THIS MONTH, and is currently in development. I forbid myself to write a single word of this story outside of the Halloween season. It is, and always will be, a free Halloween special exclusive to this blog.
Reader be warned, this story has graphic sex and violence, my vampires have teeth.
La Saveur de la Vie.
2012 Halloween special.
Sebastian kissed the girl gently, then laid her down in the soil of the small Boston graveyard. She was dead, and would never stir again, but he had to try this ancient magic. It was legend, myth, folklore, he had never seen evidence to suggest there was truth to it, but still, he had to try. If not for any hope of redemption, then out of simple compassion. He took so much from his victims, he stole decades of love and laughter. The nature of a Vampire gave him no choice. Joe was waiting for him nearby, and he hurried to cover the girl with loose soil as he did every night, with every kill.
Each night he rose from his sleep and was gripped by hunger. It overwhelmed him, commanded him, and condemned him. The blood sang in his ears, and thrummed in his soul, undeniable, insatiable. Every night for seventy-three years, he killed a young man or woman, it didn't matter which, but never the old. Never the sick. If he could have chosen his victims, they would all be old, sick, and cruel-hearted. But his nature commanded him to take from the pure, the vivid.
The legend was simple in principle, he had heard it first only fifty years ago from an ancient he met in Vienna. Albanus the Pompeian, a Vampire who wore scars formed in the flowing fires of Vesuvius, and a man who once knew Pliny the Elder. A creature of revolting visage, but great power. "Sebastian," the old one had said, his dark eyes piercing the relatively young Vampire's own. "Our existence is divine will, we serve a power above ourselves." His long thin index finger prodded Sebastian's chest, emphasizing his words. "Those we claim are not victims, they are the damned. If I could choose, I would choose no differently. You suffer because you do not understand, but the truth is, understanding is in accepting. Accept your role in the world, and understanding will come. If I cannot convince you of this, then seek the blessing of Hades. For that pale candle in the midnight sea is your only light."
"Hades?" Sebastian asked then. "I thought you hated religion." The hatred within Albanus for all faiths was well known and was something Albanus spoke of often. The anger of the Volcano and the suffering he endured in his accursed new life drove him away from the Gods he once loved, not to disbelief, but to war.
Albanus laughed. An odd sound from him, his voice was cracked and rough from his unusual scars. "The Blessing of Hades is an old story, Sebastian. It is said that a Vampire may restore pure and holy life to his nightly kill should he bleed three drops of himself onto their tongue and bury them face down in the soil for three nights. Old magic, and believe me, untrue. The Gods would not bless us with such salvation or hope."
After leaving the company of Albanus, Sebastian tried the magic for himself, not wanting to accept the ancient monster's angry words. A young man died in his arms the next evening just after sunset, as someone did every night. Sebastian bled the three drops, laid the body as instructed, and left with a silent prayer to Hades. When he returned to the shallow grave three nights later, the body was nothing more than a body, cold and still.
The failure only spurred him on. Sebastian was a scholar and knew well how to hunt legends and uncover lost knowledge. He was also a Vampire, connected in the society of the damned to many old and knowledgeable beings. So he sought wisdom from other sources, chased the legend from Europe, across to Asia, India, Africa, and America and any other place he could find ancients or their wisdom. Vampires are rare, but the circle of their society was close. In time, he found them and asked them each his question. "Does the blessing of Hades have truth within it?"
Each time, they offered only the same story he already knew, or none at all, saying no, that the story was not true, some even claimed to have never heard of it before. Every night, Sebastian bit his tongue, bled three drops, and buried his kill, usually exact, sometimes varying on the theme for experimentation. Each grave remained quiet and still, Hades ignored his supplications, and the blessing did not come.
On his most recent voyage, he had come to Boston seeking a vampire who went by the name Joe Matwau. Joe was among the oldest Vampires in North America, once long ago, he had been a Blackfoot shaman. He was a killer, as were all Vampires, yet still respected for his mind and his compassion. He was a leader, a scholar, and a neurosurgeon in the mortal world. Joe found him that very first evening. They walked a while and spoke, they fed together. A very young woman, whose spirit was clear and innocent. Certainly not the damned wretch Albanus described. As always, Sebastian mourned her. She couldn't have been a day over seventeen, her heart should have beat for six more decades.
Sebastian buried the girl, as he always did, with his kiss of blood and prayer to Hades, the dark lord of the dead. Joe watched silently until he was finished.
That evening, sitting in the planetarium at the Boston Museum of Science, they watched the strange show of stars and light and spoke together in low tones. "Does the blessing of Hades have truth within it?" Sebastian finally asked.
Joe eyed him solemnly for a moment, then turned his head away. “There is truth in it,” he said. “You know how the Vampire is born yes?”
“Of course,” Sebastian answered. “We are chosen randomly. One out of a million victims becomes a Vampire.”
"Much more than a million, or the world would be swamped with us," Joe said. "But it is not magic. It is science. I brought you here to this museum because I knew your quest. I have heard of you Sebastian, and I knew you would find me eventually. You know that I am a neurologist yes? A neurochemist as well actually. I was one of the first to define the field many years ago. I have attended medical school four times in four generations, learned new techniques and expanded my understanding by orders of magnitude each time. Modern medicine has grown and changed at an extraordinary rate in the last hundred years. I was one of the first indigenous surgeons in this state, long ago. I have always been fascinated by medicine."
“I am seeking something spiritual,” Sebastian said.
“Medicine is spiritual,” Joe shot back, a smile on his lips. “Nothing that exists does so without the will of the divine running through it, least of all the arts of science. Now listen to me.” He leaned in a little closer, to avoid being overheard by two young mortals who had just entered the large domed room and sat down. The acoustics in here were odd, and Sebastian wondered if whispering would help, but Joe seemed unconcerned.
"I currently head a medical research unit comprised of vampires seeking information on our condition, working officially for the Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Medford. They do not know what we are studying of course. It is all after hours, off the books. We have hematologists, surgeons, cardiologists, radiologists, every kind of doctor you could want. Our focus was originally on our blood, Vampire blood has been exhaustively studied by my students and me seeking answers. We have studied it to death and found no reason for what we are under the microscope. No possibility of a cure or a dietary alternative to human blood had been found. What we have discovered, to everyone's surprise, is that our blood is no different from human blood. Because it is human blood, re-circulated from our stomach into our heart, we burn it like humans burn energy from food. The process is enormously complex. Eventually, we gave up trying to find cures, but we learned so much Sebastian, it was worth every failure."
“You failed because the answer is spiritual.” Sebastian nodded along, thinking he understood.
“No, because we knew we were looking in the wrong place. Blood was not the answer, but we were closing in on the answer. Having eliminated blood, we knew the truth was in other aspects of the body’s function. Like addiction, the brain. It was only when we studied the Vampire brain that we found the truth.”
“But...” Sebastian began.
"Yes, a vampire submitted his brain to the study. He still lives, but he is damaged beyond reason. Tragic and horrible. Ignore that story, the brain taught us much and he suffers for us all. There are chemicals and impulses in our minds that are not in human minds. We know this now, we have identified it and proven it. We believe that our minds are rejuvenating our cells as an autonomous function, like breathing or blinking, you are not aware of it, but the mind controls it. We are immortal because our brains work on a bio-electric principle that human brains do not."
Sebastian doubted only one vampire had been used in such a study. “Incredible. I would like to know more, but is it relevant?”
"To the blessing of Hades? Yes, patience, I will come to it." He cleared his throat. "Our minds. So how do we transmit that through a bite? How would even one in a billion become vampires? The answer is that they could not. Our disease, our blessing, is inherent. Humans are born with it and carry it. It is interaction with a Vampire that spurs it to life, not the bite, but the proximity of another brain that is operating on that principle. Our bio-electric field sparks theirs even as they die in our arms, and if they carry that rare but potent gene, they become our children."
“Immortality is inherently human,” Sebastian said, shocked by the revelation.
"Yes. But it needs a push. And when we are pushed, we become blood-dependant monsters. Killers, demons. But then there is the blessing. One in a billion become Vampires, but that one, that single one, I believe that if they taste a tiny amount of blood without swallowing it as they die, their biochemistry is altered in the conversion. Their mind rejects the aspect of Vampirism that mandates blood dependence. They awake as whole and pure, they do not become killers."
“An immortal that has no blood lust? Where does this belief come from Joe?”
"I have met one. She was believed to be an angel. It was Ireland, maybe fifty years ago. The few who knew of her immortality kept it a secret and worshipped her. The Vampire who made her told me he used the old spell for the blessing of Hades, and I deduced the rest from my studies of the Vampiric brain."
“Only fifty years?”
“She is dead now,” Joe stood slowly and stretched. “Drank and butchered by a clan of Vampires who sought their redemption from her blood. I told them it was futile. They stole from us all any hope that she brought us.”
"Three drops, on the tongue. Placed face down so they cannot swallow it. As they turn, their mind awakens without the demand." Sebastian stared up. "Is it possible we could change our minds into that pure form? Could we become as this angel was?"
“Perhaps, in a hundred years, or two. Technology and science will teach us how to alter that chemistry, that electricity. But we would need an angel to study, to learn from. Our salvation may never come. For now, it is only a dream. Come and dream it with me Sebastian, we gather every night after our meals and we study the mind. We would welcome your presence. Believe me, you can learn the trade of a physician as we have.”
“No,” Sebastian said firmly. “I am a traveller. I must keep seeking, especially now that I know what I seek. I will find another angel, and I will bring her, or him, here. I give you my oath Joe. And until then, I will continue as I have done, I will seek the blessing of Hades with every kill, and I will hope.”
Sebastian flew to Ireland that very night to learn more about the angel's life.
Behind him in her shallow grave, the girl shivered and awoke.
End, Part I, 2012.
Elle se Lève.
2013 Halloween special.
Her world was dark and wet. There was pressure and pain, and nothing else for many hours. Thought was fleeting, flashes of sentience came and went like thunder, she would choke and struggle, then surrender, and her mind would quiet again for a time. She was lying on her stomach facing down, buried under loose, but heavy, soil. She knew nothing else. Hunger gnawed at her, a sensation without clarity or understanding. She consumed a mouthful of soil, choking it down by rubbing her jaw along the ground below her. She needed to consume, her body demanded it, but soil was not what she craved, it was cold and damp, and its texture was too rough. Something else had to be above, something hot and rich. Coffee? she thought. It was her first coherent thought in what seemed like days. Coffee was right for waking up, but it did not seem quite right now. It was not what she needed. Nevertheless, the flickering image of a steaming cup of black coffee filled her with the urge to move. The soil pushing her down became an obstacle that she had to overcome.
She could not move. Her body betrayed her will, denying her wakeful mind any more control than the rubbing of her jaw, open, closed, open, closed. Dirt filled her mouth with every motion, grinding in her teeth. She could feel her body now, the fingers and toes were numb, but present. The weight of the dirt pressed on every inch of her, and she knew her body was there, but it was silent.
Hours passed slowly as she focused more and more intently on that damn cup of coffee. It grew hotter and thicker in her mind, its dark brown colour swam with a strange burgundy as she daydreamed. It began to beat, flowing out from the lip of the cup in a rhythmic pulse. Another hour passed, the urge to consume growing stronger, more demanding, but her body would not stir. Not a single twitch, no matter her effort.
Time crawled slowly, hours more passed, and hours of internal anguish and struggle. Then, without any warning, the tremendous weight abruptly lifted from her. She shivered suddenly, and violently, and coughed the moist earth back out of her mouth. The process of heaving out the dirt from her mouth and throat woke her from her stupor. Retching, she pushed and felt the ground above her break. It was less than three inches of loose dirt. The pressure had been a phantom. Somehow, she was free of the paralysis.
Joe watched from a shadowed doorway of the old brick building next to the graveyard. Hanging plants and vines and a low wall gave him enough cover to be unseen, and huddled in a long black coat, he knew he was invisible, but he also knew she would feel his presence in such proximity. He slowly drew back a little further, crossing the street, thereby allowing enough space between himself and the girl that she would not be frightened. He took station behind a small red Honda and watched. Poor creature. He thought. She’s been awake all day, probably been trying to get out of the grave. The daylight kept her a prisoner, and she didn’t even know it. Would have burned to a crisp if she had succeeded. The sun had set only a minute before. Joe had been waiting in a small apartment nearby, his meal of the previous night had been a generous host and allowed him to stay through the day. Not that corpses argued much when politely asked for a favour.
The girl emerged shoulders first from the shallow grave. She pushed and came free in a ragged, jerking motion, then coughed and vomited. In the moonlit graveyard, with its vivid green foliage, she looked like a monster erupting from hell, a dead thing filled with raging hate coming back to desecrate the holy ground. Then, she collapsed. And in that one second, she became fragile. The sound of weeping and gasping breaths stirred the night, and she began to scream. An incoherent and terrified howl erupted from her and woke the birds in the tree above. They abruptly took wing, and with the sound of a hundred wings beating, escaped into the night. Short blonde hair glowed in the moonlight, contrasting the girl's filthy black t-shirt and jeans. Dried blood and dirt caked her, but she was still pretty in a strange way. A beautiful monster.
Joe had promised her sire, the young vampire Sebastian, that he would check in on this grave, but he had expected nothing. So rare was a transference of Vampirism that this new addition to the clan would make news throughout the continental underworld, if Joe let her live that was. A vampire must prove themselves on their first night; they must find and kill a mortal without being seen by others, and without putting themselves at risk. Instinct was usually enough to handle this task, but instinct had little care for logic, and if she could not overcome it on her first kill she would always be a slave to it. Vampires who could not control their nature were called ghouls. They were little more than animals, base and stupid creatures. Older vampires used to keep them as pets, no guard dog could perform the tricks of a ghoul.
Nowadays they are simply killed outright. Too many possibilities for trouble and too many cameras. Allowing a ghoul to be caught on a traffic camera or a convenience store's security camera was enough to jeopardize the entire Vampiric community. They wore the mark of the vampire openly, like Nosferatu, they were bone-white, withered, demonic-looking beings. Their eyes were black or red, and their teeth grew long and sharp. Not immediately, of course, such twisting of the flesh happened over a few months, but still, it could not be allowed to happen. Joe waited, hand on his knife hilt, to see if the girl would prove herself, or damn herself. He briefly wondered if Sebastian's trick might have worked, but dismissed the idea. A fairy tale, a dream. He had seen it once in his life, and his life had seen many centuries. Angels were not entirely a myth, but they were nearly an impossibility. Still, Sebastian had performed the blessing of Hades. Joe watched, curious but not hopeful.
She stood slowly, gaining composure as she did so, remembering things from her life. Annette, my name is Annette, she thought. Someone attacked me. Someone bit me, she rubbed her neck where the attacker had torn her open. She remembered the pain, the feeling of her blood spraying out and bathing her in thick, hot, crimson syrup. Her stomach churned again at the thought. Blood. She needed to fill herself with blood. It was an irrational thought, a hungry thought, but a clear one. Blood. Annette looked around and took in her environment. The graveyard on Hull Street. She was near home, a block from here there was a small café, people would be there, even at this time of night.
She began to walk unsteadily toward the graveyard's short brick wall and found the strength to climb over onto the sidewalk. Smells and sounds overcame her suddenly, and she collapsed again, and retched once more, freeing another slimy pool of dirt and vomit from her stomach.
She rose and started walking. She was steadier now, the hunger drew her on, pulled her towards the place she knew would be alive. She almost reached the corner of Hull and Salem before stopping. She was filthy and looked like an extra from a cheap zombie movie. She calmed herself and peeked in through the plate glass window. Inside, two servers were chatting with a customer who was on her way out. A woman Annette knew, but couldn't remember clearly. The word aunt floated past Annette's consciousness, followed by the name Lydia. She was irrelevant. There were other customers, but they were in the back room. Voices and noise suddenly filled her head, pounding and nauseating. Loud. Too loud. Things she should not be able to hear at all were clear and close. There was a pounding over it all. A rhythm. She remembered her fever dream from the grave, the coffee cup overflowing. It was a heartbeat. The barista, a woman, maybe thirty-five years old, wearing a black apron and a red kerchief over her head like a bonnet. Thick black frame glasses adorned her round, smiling face.
Annette could hear the woman's heart beating from ten feet away and through a plate glass window. Gripping at the brick wall, she closed her eyes and shut out the deafening chorus of the street and the tiny café. She knew she could not stay here, she needed to get inside and find what she craved. Aunt Lydia left with a laugh, and walked down the road away from Annette's hiding place, heels clicking on the sidewalk. Annette no longer had a choice, the need was overwhelming, and so she submitted. Calming herself again as much as she could, she rounded the corner and went inside.
“So, a ghoul then," Joe muttered to the night. He should not have let her go inside, but he needed to give her the chance to overcome herself and take control. There were plenty of lonely people to hunt in this part of town, any of the other buildings would have been safer than a coffee shop busy with late-night java drinkers, and the one easy victim who had been there, an older woman in heels, walking alone away from the light, the girl had almost deliberately ignored in favour of the small group of living people inside. Such a poor choice could only mean she was not able to control herself even a little.
Whoever was inside was already dead, instinct was powerful in a ghoul, and it demanded slaughter when trapped. Joe would have to kill her, and then clean up the mess before anyone else arrived. He pulled out his cell phone and opened the contacts list. Some of his students would prove useful tonight. Before hitting dial, he walked to the café window to watch the girl's moment of glory. What he saw shocked him. She had sat down at a table, and one of the young men behind the counter had come over to her, he was asking her if she needed help. He was afraid but concerned, Joe could see it in his eyes. And importantly, he was still very much alive. The newborn undead girl sat quietly, shivering and hugging herself in a defensive posture. Joe slipped the phone back into his pocket. Perhaps she would come out of this yet.
“Holy shit. Are you okay?" tall, skinny, and handsome, the young man wore a name tag that read COFFEE BOY #6, and a black apron matching his co-workers. He hopped over the bar and walked over to her table. "Can I call someone for you? Do you need the police?"
“No,” Annette said. “I think I am okay, I just….” she trailed off, and stared blankly at his neck. It fascinated her, the skin smooth and firm, pale, with red underneath the white. Red.
“Kerri, make this girl a soy chai latte on me okay? And see if there is a blanket or something in the storeroom,” COFFEE BOY #6 said to his co-worker.
"Whatever," the woman said. "She's just a junkie, Kevin, kick her out once she has her fucking charity okay?"
“I’m not a junkie,” Annette said, waking up from her daze. “Someone buried me in the graveyard. I feel sick. I don’t know what’s going on.”
“You're Anne right?” Kevin asked. “Soy chai tea latte with a shot of hazelnut, every morning except Sunday. You look different when you’re covered in shit.” He laughed and sat down across from her.
“Annette,” she said.
“Sorry. You sure I can’t call someone for you?”
“I’ll be fine, I’m just a little out of it. I live near here.” She did, it was there, her memory, lingering behind her needs. Irrelevant data streaming through her brain's background processes.
The hiss of the milk steamer startled her. Annette looked over and watched silently as Kerri poured the latte, the woman's motion and life held her attention firmly, she was beautiful and interesting in a way alien to Annette, yet deeply appealing. Annette's own body seemed to become stone still, she fixated on the woman's hands as she worked, moving with practised ease through her task. Annette had an awareness of the difference between herself and this creature, this Kerri. It felt like she was seeing another kind of being, like a deer. It was like seeing a deer through a rifle scope. There was stillness, and anticipation, a lust to kill. To tear her open with her teeth. It was madness, pure blistering madness, but it was powerful.
Kerri came over and put a to-go cup in front of her. “Okay, time to go. It‘s police or get out,” she said, her voice filled with nuances that Annette could have never noticed before. Nervousness, wariness. On a conscious level, Kerri was apprehensive of her customer, but on a darker level of her soul, she was terrified. It thrilled Annette to be the cause of such a reflexive instinct, but it also confused her.
Annette came back from her stunned awe of Kerri’s living motion. She took the cup and brought it close to her face, forcing herself to focus on its steaming heat, the scent of nutmeg and soy, and the deep, delicious, aroma of coffee.
"Leave her alone Kerri. She's been messed up," Kevin said.
Annette stopped listening as the two argued. She could smell something in the air around the coffee Sweat, blood. It was everywhere, under the skin, beating, pulling at her. She shuddered again and started to cry. In a push of willpower, she took a deep swig of hot soy and caffeine. It helped, but not much. She drained half the cup in another two gulps. Dirt, still clinging to her teeth and mouth, washed away, and she felt almost better. The taste of vomit was gone at least, and her head cleared a little. She slugged back another deep draught and exhaled forcefully. "I'll go," she said and moved to get up.
"Good riddance," Kerri swept an arm toward the door. It came close enough to Annette's face that she could hear the beating veins under the thin wrist. Annette dropped the latte, and grabbed the woman's arm with shocking speed, forcefully bringing it up against her mouth. She almost bit. The woman was yelling now, and struggling, but she was helpless in Annette's grip. Annette lost a few seconds, a sensation like blacking out, she felt the animal inside her begin to crawl up, through her throat towards the woman she was still clinging to. A flailing punch caught Annette's jaw but barely registered. She held the wrist close and caressed it with her lips. Licked it delicately, and opened her mouth to bite in. Such a forceful demand. It was savage, instinctual, potent. Blood. She needed the blood. Nevertheless, she knew it was wrong. She knew it was wrong.
Staring intently at the throbbing vein, she jerked back and let go. People were yelling now all around her, even COFFEE BOY #6, Kevin. Annette didn’t care, didn’t hear them. They were unimportant. Someone was pounding on the door, but it wouldn’t open. Annette sobbed. A window broke. She crawled under the table and huddled into herself. Chaos erupted around the café, and there was screaming. Screaming, not at her, at something else, something new.
Someone else had come into the café, a dark force of nature, magnificent, and terrifying, a tall grim-looking Native American Demi-God in a trench coat, and he was killing people. Killing everyone. His long-bladed knife flashed with reflected light, clean like a mirror at first, but swiftly becoming dark red. Blood sprayed from it in long arcs through space. The man then took the barista Kerri and bit her, opening her throat in just the way Annette had wanted to. Her head swam with light and colour, noise and sickness. She blacked out slowly, the room spinning and the man standing there drinking what she so desperately wanted, it was too much.
Joe could hardly believe she had controlled herself so well. Never in all his life had he seen a newborn vampire speak to someone, sit there calmly and have a conversation, no matter how erratic. The blood frenzy must have been driving her insane, must have been eating her alive. She drank the damn coffee though, and told them her name, if the waitress had not been so intent on getting rid of her, she might have gone on like that for even longer.
Finally, the mortals had pushed the girl too far, had gotten too close. The rest was predestined, and Joe waited to see the girl kill. Miraculously, she still did not submit to instinct. With the feast before her, laid out like a king's banquet, she held the woman and simply didn't kill her. Such control was incomprehensible. Joe could watch no longer, her superhuman strength had made itself known. The woman kicked and flailed, and the young man had pulled and shouted, but the girl simply held her, oblivious to the violence now being directed at her. Like a statue, fixated on the wrist against her lips, she sat. The young man punched her hard and solidly across her jaw and broke his fingers in the attempt.
They were not reacting only to her strength, it was her eyes Joe suspected, though he could not see from where he was. They must have changed while she was caressing the woman's wrist. The eyes of a blood-frenzied vampire would terrify the devil himself. Black on black, with pinprick irises burning like molten rubies. One could get lost in such eyes, hypnotized if they looked closely enough, but more often one just freaked right the hell out, such eyes were fundamentally inhuman.
It was time to end the show. Joe went inside and did what he had to do. Before his murderous few seconds of motion, he saw the girl crawl under the table, and huddle into a ball. He marvelled at her. Even with death all around her, she did not attack. Did not kill. It was truly impossible. She was no ghoul, that much was certain. She was not at all behaving like a vampire either though. Perhaps… Sebastian had done it. Perhaps the blessing of Hades had worked. He took the last living person in the room, the waitress she had been so taken with, and he drank deep of her. He watched the girl under the table as she watched him. Her hunger was tangible, it was alive. She was certainly a vampire, but she was not acting on it. Joe was baffled beyond understanding. Then, quietly, the newborn went slack. She had passed out.
Fifty years ago, Joe had met an angel in Ireland. A vampire who did not crave blood. She was immortal, powerful, and intelligent, seemingly perfect in body and mind. Her sire claimed to have performed the same magic that Sebastian had used. Three drops of Vampiric blood set upon the tongue of a dead victim, then turn the body on its face and bury it. Three nights later, if it would have otherwise risen as a vampire, it would now rise instead as an angel. The blessing of Hades. It was an old legend, but Joe had never known it to have truth before. Less than one in millions of victims turned into a vampire, it would take obsession to perform such magic on every corpse one left in their wake. Sebastian had that obsession, however, and perhaps he had really done it this time.
Joe had hoped in Ireland that the angel would provide a cure for his entire race, and had wanted to bring her back to his home for medical testing. Fate had decided otherwise however, she had been slaughtered by a small clan of impetuous vampires who thought that drinking her blood would give them redemption. Their arrogance and superstition had damned the entire Vampiric race. Now, here was another. She craved blood, but she could control the craving better than any vampire he had ever known. He allowed himself to hope that she could learn to control it even more. He pulled out his cell phone again, and called the hospital, typing in the extension number for his department.
“Neurochemistry. How can I help?” the receptionist answered.
"It's Doctor Matwau. Put me through to Andrew please," Joe said calmly.
The phone clicked and rang again, then a man answered. "Doctor Anderson here."
"It's Joe. I need you and the students to come and help me with a problem. In the North End, a café on Salem. The Hottest Cup. Don't drive, come fast." He hung up and waited. They would home in and find him in little more than a couple minutes. This girl, Annette, was to be their new project and his new focus if she could continue to control herself. He looked down at her and wondered.
Annette dreamed dark dreams of blood and coffee.
A whisper in the darkness seduced her.
“Run, little Goddess. Run away.
Matwau is an enemy. Sebastian is a fool.
Run, and find me, sister.
End. Part II 2013
L'ange de sang.
2014 Halloween special.
“Run, little Goddess. Run away. Matwau is an enemy. Sebastian is a fool. Run, and find me, sister. Run away."
Annette floated in darkness, naked and wet. She felt as though she were at the bottom of some deep ocean, black and heavy. The pressure held her in place, she felt lost forever in the abyss of death. That voice was there with her though, keeping her mind and soul alive. It was a masculine voice, an old voice, like a grandfather, yet filled with great strength.
“Who is Sebastian?” she whispered back into the darkness.
“Silently you must yearn for Sebastian, a secret you keep even from yourself, he is your sire and master. Your destined lover and king. He is also a fool. You must run from him and seek me out, you must be free.”
“Who is Matwau?” she ventured next.
“Death and despair are Matwau. Run, and find me, little Goddess," the voice came again, insistently.
“I can't see you." She felt a deep emptiness, like grief for a loved one recently dead, a hole where love should have been. She was alone now, the voice had departed. All around her, the darkness changed, it swam with crimson liquid, and it pooled and channelled toward her, filling the universe. What was death became blood, and blood was life. She churned in ecstasy unlike any she could remember in life, and she opened herself to it, but it lasted only for a second longer, then wakefulness hit her.
Annette woke to a deep and angry headache. White Light was blinding her, and the noise was everywhere, pounding into her head like church bells, endlessly ringing. Memory returned with shocking clarity, the café, the graveyard, blood, death, the dark man with the shining knife. She screamed, and tried to sit up, but found herself restrained. Belts held her down on a hard mattress, they secured her chest, wrists, and ankles firmly.
“She is awake doctor Matwau,” someone said loudly. Matwau. Some half-remembered dream regurgitated from her subconscious, Deep blackness, pressure…. Matwau is death, enemy.
“Get back, give her room,” another voice answered.
The light was fading, or her eyes were adjusting. The noise was mercifully subduing. Annette came to understand that she was lying in a hospital gurney, surrounded by busy doctors. The noises were machines, heartbeat monitors, respirators, those many strange things one found in an emergency room. A blood bag dangled from a steel hook, feeding warmth into her arm through a plastic tube. It felt very good.
Despite the relative normalcy of the objects in the room, this was like no ER she had seen before, the room was small and cramped, with only her bed occupying the centre stage. There were no windows, and the only door was heavy-looking steel, with its hinges either on the outside or hidden in the wall. The ceiling lights were caged, and the floor was bare concrete. This was a prison.
Someone had changed her out of her clothes and cleaned her up while she had slept, she now wore a light blue hospital gown, made of thin, cheap cotton, and nothing else. Her clothes had been filthy, and ruined, she accepted the fact but still felt violated. "Where am I?" she asked.
"Boston Memorial, special care unit. I am Doctor Matwau. How are you feeling?" The speaker leaned in, and Annette recognized him. He was wearing white now, a doctor's coat, but it was him, the man from the café. The killer, the enemy. The man behind him she had never seen before, was African American, short, and bearded. His dark eyes pierced her soul, yet no sign of emotion crossed his face. He was not serene this man but calculating. It was a psychopath's curious glare.
“You murdered them.” She shrank back as much as the belts would let her.
"Yes, you gave me no choice dear," Matwau said, as though it were a perfectly rational argument. He turned and shut down the respirator with a casual flip of a switch, then, catching her look, and glancing from the machine to her, he laughed. "Re-oxygenating your system is not strictly necessary, but good for brain function. You were not breathing for quite some time."
“Let me go,” she pleaded, not knowing how else to proceed.
"In a moment," he said and pressed down hard on her chest with one hand. "Can you feel that?"
She could, there was pressure, but it felt strange. “Yes,” she said. Was that the pressure from her dream? Just a hand firmly pushing down? Was the name Matwau just something her sleeping mind had overheard?
He moved his hand to her stomach and pressed down again. "And that?"
The hunger she had felt before at the café renewed itself, and she lurched upward in the bed, the belt around her chest straining and ripping. She cried out and sobbed once. "Help," she managed. Her vision swam and her heart pounded. Blood, she still needed blood. The intravenous bag was helping, but it was a trickle, not the deluge she needed.
"I would call that a yes," the doctor said smugly. "She is without doubt one of us. A ghoul would not have felt the pressure on the chest." He wasn't speaking to her but to someone behind him. "And a pure angel such as the one I met in Ireland would not feel the stomach compression as blood-lust."
"Just a strong-willed Vampire then, damn," the other person said. "You had me believing it Joe."
“So did I,” the doctor said, his voice filled with sadness.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" Annette relaxed as his hand and the pressure were removed. The sudden onslaught of ravenous hunger subsided but did not vanish entirely. Her fury was growing.
“Well my dear, you have woken up tonight to find yourself quite dead. Ignore the beating of your heart, I assure you that it beats cold blood.” She felt the straps securing her being released one by one, and struggled to sit up. It was a failed attempt, she felt weak.
“Dead?” She recoiled as the clammy hand returned, laying itself on her brow.
“A Vampire, go ahead and deny it now, best to get it out of your system.” He let go of her head and moved away to check one of the machines. “Temperature is cold, normal. She is responding well to the blood.”
She was about to say something to the effect of Vampires aren’t real, but stopped herself. The graveyard, the thirst for blood that she still felt, the lust to kill the woman at the coffee shop, it all fit together with undeniable clarity. “A Vampire?” she said.
“Just like the count on Sesame Street. You know that one right?” The doctor laughed. “Yes, I think you do, still just a child aren’t you?”
“I’m nineteen,” she lied.
“And I am so old I cannot say even how many decades have passed since I was born,” he said. “Your people brought the calendar of Christ here long after I was turned.”
“I know what a Vampire is,” she huffed indignantly. “Why do I feel so weak if I am a Vampire? Shouldn't I be stronger?”
"We took the liberty of drugging you my dear," Matwau smiled condescendingly. "Stronger even than you think, yes, and will no doubt be strong even for one of our kind. Your will is quite impressive. For now, you should rest, doctors orders." He straightened up to his full height and waved the other man out of the room. The bearded psychopath did not argue but vanished with inhuman speed. The door banged loudly behind him.
“Wait,” she said as Matwau began to turn.
“Yes?” he slipped his hands casually into his pockets.
“Is… Sebastian… is he here too?”
“How do you know that name?” Matwau looked genuinely surprised.
“I thought, I thought I heard it, in my dream.”
Matwau stared at her for a moment, examining her with the incredulity of one used to being lied to. “No, he is not here. You may not meet Sebastian again for many years, he is off on an errand.”
She stared back, trying to meet his gaze. "An errand," she said. "Like, a loaf of bread, quart of milk, stick of butter, be back in seven years and bring the change?"
"Something like that." Matwau smiled his unkind smile and left through the door. The door closed firmly behind him, and a lock clicked.
Annette was alone, with no apparent escape route, drugged and confused, and still half starving. She knew she had to escape, she felt that very strongly. Taking a full minute to examine the room again, she accepted that there was no way out except the door, even the ceiling panels, a favourite escape path for television drama, were solid-looking and bolted in. She struggled again to sit up, and gritting her teeth, she managed this time. After a moment to recover from the effort, she turned her head to the blood bag at her side. Its contents drew her attention and gave her the motivation she needed to reach up and unhook it from the steel post. It flopped wetly in her hand, it was hot, probably microwaved.
She drew it close to her lips and found the opening where the tube was inserted. Yanking the tube out of her vein, and then the other end out of the bag took less than a second. Drinking the liquid, however, she savoured, suckling the nectar from it slowly took willpower, but it was worth it. The blood tasted like honey, thick and sweet, charmed with some unexpected and very pleasant flavours, it was nothing like what she knew blood to taste like. It was supposed to be coppery, salty, sickening. This was so different as to be something else entirely, but she knew, she felt, it was right. It was human blood, human blood brewed by divine masters, aged in oak, tinged with chocolate and rum, a mild hint of tobacco, and something else, deeper and richer, unknown to her. It was heavenly and restorative.
Whatever drug they had given her was being chased out of her system by the blood, every drop she drank gave her strength and power. It was power, yes, no other word described the sensation beating through her. Her entire body felt energized, her mind more alert, her senses alive. She stood up out of the bed and dropped the now empty bag. She wanted more, but it could wait, the boiling need was satiated. Right now, she needed freedom.
“Run, and find me, sister. Run away," came the memory of a dream. She obeyed. Without even thinking about it, she grabbed the handle of the door and pulled hard, putting her shoulder into the motion and demanding with every fibre of her muscle that the door open. It splintered and bent, and cracked, the handle bent and twisted, but the lock gave way first, breaking in a clean snap, and allowing the door to bang open violently. Annette was shocked by her strength, but she didn't let the surprise overwhelm her. She stepped through the door. Outside was no clean bright hospital, but a dark, unpainted cement hallway. No lights mounted the roof, yet she could see clearly, even the darkest shadows held no secrets from her new eyes. "Run,” the memory told her again. She stepped gingerly out of the room, looking both ways down the hall, frightened of her strength, and frightened of her new reality, but the drive to run was certain and pure. She ran.
Taking the hallway to the right on instinct, Annette charged ahead with all the speed she could muster. She had always enjoyed running, but this was a whole world of new ability, the hallway around her blurred and careened past like the scenery outside a train window. She realized too late that such momentum was impossible to control, and a wall came to meet her head-on. She did not quite smash right through it, but she learned what broken gyprock tasted like. She stumbled back, unhurt but shaken. Two options now presented themselves, a door leading into the room she had almost violated by way of a wall or another hallway to the left. She chose the door and found herself looking at a standard hospital staircase. Square and wide, leading up to unknown heights, a landing on every corner. She looked at the door she had come through, and saw the letters SB and the number 3. Sub-basement three. That meant that the ground floor and freedom were four stories above. Since no one seemed yet to be chasing her, she took the stairs at a casual pace and found her way to a door marked Lobby. Underneath that was Exit.
It was a hospital, a normal, brightly lit and busy, hospital. People were everywhere, sitting patiently, or briskly walking on some important quest, they ignored her with all the enthusiasm of the apathetic. She was to them just another patient, pale and under-dressed for any occasion, but here in this place, apparently normal. Underdressed was a problem if she wanted to leave the hospital, where no one might care that a young woman was walking around in a cheap blue hospital gown, but out there in the real world, it would be rather attention-grabbing. Especially if the awkward ties at the back slipped, her bottom was feeling a little too exposed at the moment.
In one direction was a broad double door equipped with an automatic slider, to the other was a wide round desk marked admissions. She chose the desk. “Take a number and have a seat please,” the woman seated behind it said without looking up from her computer screen.
“I am already a patient,” Annette said. “I just need directions.”
The woman glanced up and nodded confirmation.
“Can you tell me where I can get some clothes? Mine were ruined, but I have to leave now.”
“Gift shop has emergency supplies for all sizes.” The woman pointed down the hall to her left.
Annette had no money on her of course, but smiled and said thank you, and walked to the small gift shop. The chocolate, chips, and cinnamon buns that stood proudly at the front by the cashier turned her stomach. Fortunately, she discovered that she could turn off her sense of smell by ceasing to breathe. A fact that would have stunned her somewhat more if she had not been in a hurry. To the left against a wall, she found T-shirts and pants on neat white metal racks. No shoes, but it would do. The T-shirts came in blue and pink, with either a T-Rex or a prancing purple pony adorning the chest. Strangely, they came in adult sizes. Silently blaming the middle-aged cashier, a man who fits every description of man-child ever penned, she ducked behind the toy shelf and slipped into the clothes as quickly as possible, choosing the T-Rex with the wicked glee of some nearly forgotten inner child of her own.
“You have to pay for those before you can wear them miss,” the man called out. He had seen her in the dish mirror on the ceiling.
Annette was already gone. The store had its exit on the back wall, and the night called to her. She ran out faster than she would have dared if she had stopped to think it through, the door's bell ringing madly in her wake. Freedom was now possessed.
"What now?" she said to herself, stopping her insane sprint when she reached the street, more gracefully than in the hallway, but not yet with ease. She was far from downtown, out in the suburbs somewhere. A street sign read Governors Avenue, and bland grey and faded yellow houses lined the opposite side of the street. Trees grew thick, leaves turning yellow in the chilly fall air and dropping to the sidewalks in droves. The air smelled glorious, and Annette began to breathe again, taking in the rich earth smells as deeply as her lungs would allow. To her left a stone monument of some kind marked a meridian in the road. She walked over slowly and sat on it without reading the plaque. "Where the hell am I?" she mused and looked around again.
A green sign outside the hospital parking lot answered her, Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Medford. Medford is five miles or so from downtown Boston. Not so bad then, but she had not travelled out this way in years, she didn't know quite how to get back.
Deciding that one way was as good as any other, Annette turned left and ran as hard as she could down the road. A handful of blocks flew past, and the avenue ended in a T junction, in front of her was a wall of forest, wickedly deep in the night, yet strangely inviting. Annette looked over her shoulder once and discovered that the urge to run was still quite strong. Into the woods, not on the road, she wanted to escape from the murderous doctor behind her, and the woods offered it.
Leaves crunched softly underfoot, and branches bent in her hands. Annette ventured into the forest, unaware that she was pointed North, directly away from Boston.
Behind her, a rage brewed in the heart of Joe Matwau.
The newborn Vampire had escaped her cell.
The spawn of Sebastian had fled, and in so doing,
proved herself to be stronger and faster than any newborn had a right to be.
This child, this girl, this Annette, she was a mystery.
Perhaps not an Angel as he had hoped,
but a mystery he could not ignore.
End, Part III, 2014.
Le Désespoir de Annette.
2015 Halloween Special
Annette ran until exhaustion set in. It was something of a surprise to her that such a feeling could still occur, so much strength had been flowing through her that she had felt invincible, unstoppable, but her batteries were draining fast. The beast named hunger was rearing its head again as well, the offering of blood she had taken in from the IV bag in the hospital was not enough to sustain her. Such incredible flavour, such potent energy, she needed more of that delicate nectar, blood, human blood.
Annette stopped running and knelt to rest for a moment. Though she had been aware of the forest around her, she found herself observing it for the first time as she caught her breath. The silver moonlight had never been so bright before, even in the deepest shadows, her eyes caught detail and colour. Green, so vibrant that it shook her to the core with wonder, splashes of red and violet in flowers, yellow creeping through the moss, blue in the sky, not the blue of daylight, no, that was still hours away, but a beautiful dark and wet blue tint to the heavens. Oh how the stars sparkled, each one like a diamond in the light, billions of them, some flashing with incredible lustre and others steadily glowing in more colours than she had known the night sky could hold.
The Milky Way glowed through it all, an arm of the galaxy which she had never seen before with the naked eye. It had always been there, silently spinning through the universe, but now her eyes could see it through the light pollution of Boston. Photos did not do it justice, she dimly recalled seeing shots taken by the Hubble space telescope, or one of the powerful observatories on Earth, displayed in National Geographic or online, pale little images in comparison to what her own eyes now beheld. It was a long time before she realized her jaw was agape, and she shook her head to tear her eyes away from the majesty of space above.
When she closed her eyes against the beauty, sound suddenly filled her mind. Once again, she was struck. It had been with her all along, but she had not been focused on it, the sounds of the forest overwhelmingly flowing from every direction. Wind in the leaves, animal life everywhere, mice and bats, and the soft steps of a cat on the prowl, the cat was not close, but it was still audible across all the other sounds. Like she was hyper-aware of it as a fellow predator. She smiled and drew a long, deep breath to shake off the sensations filling her. She still needed to move, find shelter before dawn and figure out how to deal with her hunger. A smell caught her by surprise, as though each sense was tuning in for a moment, making itself known to her, this scent was foul, but thin, maybe miles away for all she knew, but drifting on the gentle wind, skunk.
She cringed and pulled her hand over her nose. That was certainly going to be a problem, but one she could avoid at least. She took in her surroundings again, and thought for a moment, orienting herself. She chose a path that best avoided the skunk and offered a return to some semblance of civilization. If her senses were feeding her accurate data, that way would take her to a highway, maybe she could hitch a ride somewhere and get herself away from the Vampires that had locked her up. Start to chase the voice in her head, or Sebastian, a name, a dream, a sense of family, strangers though, and Sebastian was her killer too if she understood his role in her new life correctly. It was hard to think through it all, instinct and logic were at odds.
The voice was clear in her memory and seemed so close. "Matwau is an enemy. Sebastian is a fool.” Sebastian, “Your destined lover and king.” As much as she hated the idea, it also comforted her. Matwau was an enemy, she agreed with that. He had butchered the people in the Cafe, he was a monster no matter how soft-spoken. Sebastian though, who the hell was he? Why had he done this to her? She wanted answers, and she felt a strong pull to the name. Who was the voice? Why did it want her to stay away from Sebastian? It offered freedom and felt honest, but it was a whisper in the dark, ethereal and disconnected. So many questions and so few rational answers. Vampire, that was what she knew, she was a Vampire, like a character in a horror novel. What did she know about Vampires? Which movies were right, and which were junk? Was there a single shred of truth in pop culture? Garlic? Sunlight? Crosses? Would she incinerate if she walked into a church? Did she need a coffin to sleep in? Could she cross running water?
She shook her head. Too many questions were cycling without any way of being answered. Right now, she had to keep moving and find the highway. Now that she thought about it, she could hear it too, smell the exhaust, see the glow of light above the tree line. It was a fair distance, but she knew she could cross it quickly. With a hard swallow of saliva, she stood and began to run again. It took several minutes to bound through the dense forest to the highway, it was tiring, but she found unexpected reserves to draw on and fought hard to reach her destination as quickly as possible. She drew to a sudden stop before running out into traffic and fell to her knees again. There were not many cars on the road, but enough were running that she felt good about her chances at hitchhiking. Across the meridian, she saw a reflective green sign that read Stoneham - 3 Highway 95 - 5, Salem NH, 27.
Salem, that gave her an idea, Salem New Hampshire was not the famous Salem, but it wasn't a far drive to Salem Massachusetts either. She had been there a few times, and what better place for a newborn Vampire to fit in than the world's most well-known city of witches? If she remembered her local geography right, it was just east of here, Take the offered Highway 95 exit five miles north and she could get there well before morning. She darted across the highway and stuck out her thumb at the next car, it blew past without slowing. No trouble, she was pretty and dressed like a simpleton, no one should be frightened, and soon someone would stop for her. The hard part would be not killing them for their kindness.
Sebastian spent the day in the Radisson Blu hotel near the Dublin airport. He had barely made it in before morning light, his plane having been somewhat late arriving. The hotel's curtains were heavy enough that he could avoid needing to sleep in the bathroom. Any night travelling where he could find a bed, he considered a good one, no matter the location. Sebastian had spent too many countless sunlight hours hidden in basements, bathrooms, and other uncomfortable places, he loved the feeling of a large soft bed. He was young for a Vampire, dead for seventy-three years, alive twenty years before that, but even in that time, the comfort of beds had increased exponentially. In his memories of youth, they were hard and lumpy things at the best of times, this wonderful modern hotel on the other hand seemed to have crafted its mattresses from some kind of space-age foam that delightfully conformed to his body. Something troubled him though, and despite the physical comfort, he was restless.
As he rolled over for the thirteenth time and adjusted the pillow, he thought of his endless quest for redemption. His nature as a Vampire drove him to kill, drove him to steal life from the innocent and young. It was a living horror every night, a damnation he could hardly endure. Perhaps the only thing still forcing him onward was the slim hope that he could produce or discover an angel, a Vampire that did not drink blood. If he could do this, then perhaps his salvation was not impossible. Perhaps this angel could guide him back from the torturous depths of evil which enslaved him.
He fell into a fitful sleep, broken by dreams of his last victim, the bellboy of the hotel, outside for a cigarette behind the hotel dumpster in the final moments before dawn broke. He had been a victim of necessity, and not savoured, but still his gaping shock at the sudden approach and attack of Sebastian had been enough to leave a nightmare in its wake. Before him had been the girl in Boston. Matwau and Sebastian had been so engrossed in conversation that they had almost missed that meal, poor girl out in the night, alone and shivering so endearingly in the chilly air, she had walked right into their web. It was a slow thing, as it was meant to be, and Sebastian had the opportunity to bury her as his ritual dictated, unlike the poor bellboy. He laid the young man down in the dumpster, likely to be discovered by the trashmen sometime this day. It always made Sebastian weep when he could not perform his ritual, it meant the loss of even the slightest hope for the victim. Such a small hope though, perhaps just a legend in the end. Still, one he had to chase. Here in Dublin, he might finally have his answer or some record of it. Here had been an angel, so Matwau had claimed. Fifty years ago, a long age for a human, and even for young Sebastian, but to the elders such as Matwau it might have been yesterday. Yes, he could find memories of the girl here if nothing else.
He woke at sundown with a sudden jerk. The dream snagged for a moment and held him, the girl, the one from Boston, running madly through a forest, terrified and awed by her surroundings. Some threat behind her, confusion before her. The image held his psyche and filled his soul. Was it just a dream? Some lingering despair and desire for her survival? He tore the down comforter off of himself and got up to shower, staggering at first, half asleep in a way most unusual for him. He could not recall when last he had been so affected by a dream.
Stepping naked under the running water, he closed his eyes and let the image of her come back to him. She had been dressed differently than when he killed her. That was odd, but dreamlike really, she was an adult but wore the clothing of a child. Obvious subconscious interpretation of innocence. But there was that hunger, gnawing at her, he could feel it. The hunger of a Vampire. Sebastian had never sired before, but yes, this was how it had been described to him, a psychic link, forceful and strange, an awareness of the newborn monster. Damn, had he condemned her then? Was she now one of his unholy, predatory, species?
He washed himself slowly, palms lingering on his face in shame. He thought that it was so, she was now a Vampire, his spawn and responsibility. The ritual had failed, but his toxic soul had seeped into her, she was undead, and now his black mark on the Earth was compounded. His guilt all the greater. Another killer and each of her victims would be his own. He thought to phone Matwau and ask about her, the doctor had promised to keep an eye on the grave he had put her in.
He turned off the shower and towelled himself dry, then wrapped himself in its rough cloth and walked to the hotel phone. Outside, a siren wailed in the early night. Police were at the dumpster. He ignored the noise and took up the room's telephone to dial the number for Matwau's office.
“Neurochemistry, good evening,” a receptionist said into the line. Despite the vast distance, there was no delay, a miracle of the modern age.
"Doctor Matwau please, this is Sebastian," he said. The receptionist should know his name, the poor thing was a long-time servant of the little cult of monster scientists Matwau had going, but he wanted to be sure.
"I'll connect you," she answered and put him on hold.
A heartbeat later, the phone clicked. “Sebastian?” Matwau's voice growled.
“Yes, it's me,” he said, taking a breath to steady himself.
“I'm glad you called, not surprised, but glad. You know then? You can feel her?”
“Damn,” he answered, understanding the meaning of Matwau's question. “Yes, I know. What is happening? She was running, afraid.”
"Yes, well she tore out of here like the devil was chasing her and vanished. Where was she in the dream?"
“A forest, trees and plants, I don't know.”
"Okay," Matwau said knowingly, "Middlesex Fells then, she went North. Did you see water or a road? Maybe she went to the Reservoir?"
“No, nothing like that, just forest.”
The older Vampire hummed in thought. “That area is covered in trails, she would likely be along one of them, I wonder what she is doing? Never fear Sebastian, we will hunt her down and take her in. You worry about the Angel there in Ireland, say hello to an old friend for me and he will give you a place to stay, you are looking for a place called Drumalee Cross near Cavan. Ask for him in the pub there, a white building with a stone front and a clock set into the peak. His name is James Hayden.”
“James Hayden, Drumalee. Thanks,” Sebastian hung his head. One question remained, and he believed he already knew the answer. “Is she... like us?”
Matwau paused a moment, then sighed into the phone. “I'm sorry Sebastian, yes. She killed a woman moments after rising, and she was seen doing it by an entire coffee shop full of people. Not a ghoul though, that's good at least, she didn't mean to be spotted. I took care of it all, but if you see something on the news about a massacre in Boston....”
Sebastian pinched his brown and rubbed his temple in sorrow. “How many?” he asked.
“Best not to keep a tally,” Matwau answered. “It's not your fault, you did your best.”
“No, not yet, but I will. I'll find a way, I'll find the truth about the angel.”
“Good luck, and don't worry, we will find your little princess and deal with her.”
Sebastian hung up without saying goodbye. His worst fears had been realized, that poor creature was damned to his fate, and in the coming years she would kill countless more innocents. From this day forward, Sebastian's guilt was doubled. He dressed quickly, and abandoned the room through the window, best not to be seen leaving while the police were around. Whatever else drew him on, he had to feed again, better to do it far from here and do it right, one didn't want the police connecting the dots and thinking a serial killer was at work.
Matwau put down the telephone and gazed angrily at his students, two of them waited silently for orders in his office. They had failed to track the fledgling vampiress in her escape, they had gone south, assuming she would have headed to familiar ground. The entire night was wasted, and she could be miles away before dawn. "Idiots," he cursed. "She went into the Fells, go, find her trail and either come back with a corpse or a recruit. I don't care which, but do not come back empty-handed."
Shamed, the two men grimaced and nodded, then left. They hated this kind of work and so did Matwau, but sometimes it was necessary. Their lab studies could be delayed, the girl needed to be caught. She was unusual, even if she wasn't an angel, she was valuable as a case study. So much could be learned from even the slightest variance in Vampire biology, and she was a massive variance. He tapped his fingernails on his desk for a moment, then swore loudly, and got up to follow his students. She was too valuable to leave to their hunting skill, he would take part himself. North, where was the child going? Lindenwood cemetery? There was a vampire or two haunting that locale, maybe she sensed them? No, they were weak things, pale shadows of the undead, she couldn't be aware of them from such a distance. Maybe she was just running blind. He would find her, and he would dissect her. For his work, for his science. Her mystery would come unravelled.
Annette looked across the truck's cabin at the driver who had picked her up. Such an ugly old man, wrinkled and fat, stinking of the fish he transported in the back. But somehow he was also a most fascinating creature, a most aromatic meal.
“Can you bring me to Salem?” she asked in a soft tone, licking her lips gingerly.
He squirmed under her gaze. “Kid, don't look at me like that, I'm happy to drive you, but you don't need to whore out to me.”
“Just drive then. Ignore me, drive to Salem, Salem Massachusetts, where the witches are.” Her voice took on an instinctive tone of power, the words crawled across her tongue and vibrated through the air in an almost tangible force.
"Salem," the trucker drawled. "Where the witches are, Ignore you, just drive, Salem." He ignored her and he drove. She stared. She bit her lip. She hungered.
Late that night, a fish truck pulled onto the curb in front of an old Gothic building,
its brownstone face and blood-coloured windows loomed overhead.
A sign above the peaked wooden doors read “Salem Witch Museum.”
A girl leapt out of the driver's seat, and walked off into the night,
leaving the empty truck behind.
End. Part IV
Le Désespoir de Annette
La Hantise de Sebastian.
2016 Halloween special.
Sebastian sat in a pub in Cavan, just south of Drumalee Cross, it was a calm little place, open late but not busy. Out the window, sheep wandered around in a beautiful little green field fenced in stone. Sebastian didn't know much about sheep, but he thought it was interesting that they were awake at this hour, and wondered if their farmer knew what secrets they kept in the long nights. "Three drops, on the tongue," he said to his company, "Placed face down so they cannot swallow it, just like in the stories. But... but she turned, Joe told me this evening on the telephone, I knew as soon as I woke. It must be broad daylight there right now, so she is asleep, I don't feel... anything. I suppose I'll dream of her again tonight when she is active and I am asleep. I wonder if she is dreaming of me." He looked around the pub and sighed.
The woman he was speaking to was Raghnailt, or Mrs. Rachel Hayden, the wife of James, whom Joe had sent him to meet. It was not rare to find vampires in long relationships. Life was lonely without companionship, and a long life was even lonelier. Sebastian had been in several short relationships over the years, men and women both, but they never understood him well, and he never really wanted to understand them. He still sought love but had come to terms with loneliness too, and could endure it for the foreseeable future. Still, it was warming to his heart to see the love shared by James and Rachel. It didn't hurt that she was so beautiful either, her red hair flowed and curled like a river, and her pale white marble skin and stunning green eyes shone in the dim light. Surely, he thought, mortals must be awed in her presence. James was so different from her that the two were likely a much commented upon pair when they were seen out together, his rough and square features, bent nose, and short legs made him look like a character from a classic novel, a street ruffian with more malice than sense, but this look was a lie, James spoke with an educated affect, and his eyes were sharp.
“You will adjust to her,” Rachel said.
James nodded and put a pint of beer in front of each of them. "That's the truth, Sebastian, in a month you will think of her like your own arm. As for the legend of the angel, it sounds like you did it right, but no, clearly she is not an angel."
Sebastian sighed again, more heavily, and watched the sheep through the old window glass. He sipped at the beer, it was rich and dark, likely the famous Irish Guinness, but he hadn't been asked what he liked to drink, James had simply brought him the beverage. It had been almost a decade after becoming a vampire before he could handle food and liquids other than blood, and even now it wasn't as pleasant as he remembered it being in life, he preferred the mildest flavours and weakest drinks possible in general, there was just so damned much nuance in the slightest flavours, even a raw potato had levels that mortals could not fathom.
His displeasure must have shown because Rachel and James laughed at him. "You will get used to that too in time," Rachel said, "you are still quite young aren't you?"
"I have been a vampire for seventy-three years," he answered. "When exactly will I be able to enjoy a stout again? I loved dark beer once."
"Give it twenty more years and you will be eating Indian food just for fun," James said and knocked his glass against Sebastian's. "But you have to force it, drink up and get your tongue used to it."
Sebastian did so with some reluctance. It was an interesting fact that Vampires felt alcohol just as acutely as mortals, and many drugs too, but narcotics had no interest for Sebastian. He thought getting a little drunk was a good idea tonight though, it would help dull the heartache. "What can you tell me about the angel that was here?" he asked.
"She was English," Rachel said with an open note of scorn, "and uppity, what you call a yuppie. Smelled like candy and sex, looked like a pedophile's wet dream, school outfit and everything. Angel is hardly the word."
“That's unkind dear,” James said with a smirking glance aside. “She is dead after all.”
“Then she can haunt me, I hated her from the first and I won't pretend otherwise just to be socially polite.”
“I'm afraid my darling wife and your little angel were rather forcefully at odds,” James said to Sebastian.
“Not my angel, the angel, the only one that any vampire in the world has ever actually seen as I understand it,” Sebastian said. “Tell me her story, please.”
Rachel took in a long breath, looked away, and licked her pale lips. "Why not?" she said. "Her name was Kristin with a K, aren't they all nowadays, but it was unusual back then, this was nineteen sixty-four or five. I remember when she first arrived in town with her parents, all of them alive and hot-blooded, fresh off the boat from South England."
“Cornwall, West England,” James interrupted.
“I've been there,” Sebastian nodded. “King Arthur, and all that.”
"Don't bring the fairies into this," Rachel said but did not explain her meaning. "She was just a child then of course, sixteen or so, but she became popular rather quickly with the other young people in town, you wouldn't expect that from an English girl, but she did."
“How did you know her?” Sebastian asked.
“Rachel used to teach night classes at the high school,” James beamed, as though it was some accomplishment of his.
“Yes, I might again someday, but it's too soon. Someone might recognize me and wonder why I am not an old lady.”
“But aren't we in the area now anyway? Sebastian asked. This was a regular problem for vampires, they had to move every few decades to avoid people noticing their oddness.
“Distant enough, and we know where everyone drinks around here,” James said.
"Anyway, your little angel got herself in some trouble a couple of years later, arrested for pot. It was a big deal back then. And that put her in our crosshairs, we fed mostly off the jailbirds back then, young and pretty food is our natural curse as you know, but back then we still tried to aim for the scoundrels when it was possible."
“Not anymore, too limited a pool,” James shrugged.
“A few nights after she was released from jail, I caught her walking her puppy around ten at night, and I dragged her into the rosebushes and we did her in.”
James smiled and put a hand on Rachel's knee. "Together as always, we like to share, which keeps the body count lower."
Rachel leaned over and kissed him, then sipped her beer and swallowed before continuing. "I didn't mean to get blood on her tongue, I don't know if I did, but we liked it messy back then, I'm the first to say it's possible. Honestly, we didn't give a single thought to burying her face down either, but she landed that way when we threw her in the hole, and we buried her that way. Three nights later, we felt her wake up."
“Never felt anything like it, and I have sired twice, this was different.”
“Both of you fed off her though,” Sebastian said, thinking that he and Joe had fed together off his own fledgling, but of course, she was no angel.
James nodded. “Yes, and I'm sorry but I don't remember anything about blood on her mouth either. It could easily happen.”
“Two minds in proximity, maybe blood on the tongue is irrelevant,” Sebastian mused, recalling what Joe had told him about a vampire's neurological presence affecting dormant human potential.
"She woke up hungry," Rachel said. "She was rough for a couple of days, we wondered if she might be a ghoul, but she got through it alright. She did kill twice, a late-night drunkard stumbling home, and then her parents."
“Not the doggie though,” James put in. “I remember seeing it with her neighbours the next year.”
Sebastian was shocked. "She killed her parents? Awful. That doesn't sound at all like the angel I heard described."
Rachel shook her head dismissively. "Oh she did get better, and I think she hated them to start with, so it's not that bad. It wasn't long, a few days in and she started refusing to kill. I remember thinking it was the strangest thing, I expected her to starve herself to death like some monk. We more or less had taken her in by then, tried to teach her survival skills, all that, but we were already yelling at each other a couple of times a day, our home was too small for three people."
“We have a big house now,” James smiled. “Just a little cottage in the sixties, it was too small.”
“And James was sleeping with her, that always makes me pissy,” Rachel said.
“Wouldn't have gone on though, she was a tart,” James drank deeply.
"So when she stopped drinking blood, I expected her to wither and die, but she didn't, she seemed to get better instead, with redder cheeks and warmer skin. She still smelled like one of us, maybe a little different, but for all my senses she was a vampire, not a mortal. Just, more... alive."
"That's when Joe came to stay with us," James said. "He was exploring the new world, educating himself about white history. He was already quite Americanized by then, of course, we never knew him as a real Indian type."
“That's racist James,” Rachel laughed.
"Well, we didn't, he was just a dark-skinned American for all we could tell. I hoped to find him more savage."
“Very racist,” Rachel shook her head. “Ignore him, he is old world. Head full of prejudices, you should hear him go on about the Gypsies and the Jews.”
Sebastian huffed and drew himself up a little. “I shouldn't actually, I don't mean to be rude, but I don't like racism much, I was in the war, and I know what those people suffered. Please, keep telling the story.”
James gave a curt "Bah," and waved his hand. "We were all in the war, find a vampire old enough anywhere in the world, and they were in the war. At least we were on the same side Frenchie."
Rachel laughed. "You must have still been a little baby vampire or even a mortal then, you're barely old enough."
"Please," Sebastian urged through grit teeth. His past was not something he wanted to bring up, especially that era of his life. "The girl," he said to get them back on track.
"There's not much else to tell," Rachel said. "Joe was around for a couple weeks, and we entertained him and taught him about Ireland and our history, and we taught her as well, as much as she would listen, but we fought mostly, about everything, especially about her refusal to eat. Joe even brought her a boy three or four times and urged her to eat, but she wouldn't. Word got around about that..." She trailed off and her focus softened as she examined her memory. "And then they came for her, four vampires, all boys, from Dublin. Old friends of ours actually, most of them are still around.
James tossed back the last of his drink and shook his head sadly. “I must have told them in a letter. I think I did in fact. It was just so damned odd.”
“They came into the house and took her out, Joe protested a little, but James wasn't home. I must admit I egged them on a little, I thought they were just going to rape her.”
Sebastian swallowed a surge of anger at that suggestion. He was a killer, but he had compassion, and what she had suggested was completely obscene to him.
“But they drank her dry, right there on our back porch, bit in like she was a mortal and had every drop of her. She wasn't weak, she fought them off for a minute, despite her refusal to drink blood she was strong, maybe stronger than any of us, but they were too many.”
Sebastian knew that was a terrible fate for a vampire, but he also knew it wasn't fatal. A vampire drained dry would remain a withered husk, alive and aware, but unable to move. It was a punishment among their kind for great crimes, or had been, he had never heard of someone being entombed that way in his lifetime. "Is she still alive then?" he asked, suddenly hopeful.
“Oh no, they didn't leave her like that,” James said, shaking his head.
“They ate her,” Rachel said. “I couldn't stop it alone, and like I said, James was out. Joe, well, he was Joe, he watched the whole thing like it was a documentary television program.”
“They ate her?” Sebastian reeled, and put a hand against his mouth.
She waved her hand dismissively and grimaced. “Some of her, enough really. The important bits, you know, heart, brain, etcetera. We buried the rest but it's not worth digging up. Joe did take samples I think, he was interested in her.”
"Not even we can come back from that," James laughed. "Immortality has its limits," the man took a last swallow of the dregs from his glass and pushed his chair back to stand up. He dropped a few bills on the table and then raised his hand at threw a finger point in Sebastian's direction. "We will meet again someday, I know you don't like me much, but don't bother hating me either. I don't like to fight anymore."
Rachel stood more slowly and picked up her handbag off the table. "Why do you care so much anyway?" she asked.
Sebastian drained his glass, forcing his throat to open to the beer and trying to ignore the ten thousand flavours his tongue was trying to differentiate. "Why don't you? Why do I have to keep answering that question? Why am I the only one who wants the answer to this?"
"You aren't," James said, leaning into Sebastian. "That's why they ate her."
Sebastian found himself a bed again that night, an open basement suite in a tiny little house south of Cavan. He had paid the owner for the room, she was too old and too unsavoury to be any kind of meal, and funds were hardly a problem. He spent the night online, clumsily looking up phone numbers and addresses in Dublin for the four vampires that killed the angel, who he now thought of as Kristin. Unfortunately, James and Rachel hadn't seen them in decades, and he eventually determined that their addresses now all belonged to other people. Even if he was better with computers, finding a vampire who had moved on was usually impossible, the point of moving on was to establish new identities after all. If their only known associate didn't know how to find them, no one did. It wouldn't matter anyway, he knew, they had not by any account successfully taken Kristin's power or strength.
Just before dawn, he went out again to hunt, and he found a young girl out walking her dog. Poetry could often be cruel.
On the other side of the world, Annette woke up slowly. Her dreams had been comfortable, there had been a sense of safety and warmth, and she had been in a cozy little pub having drinks with an adorable Irish couple. She didn't know them, or know why she had dreamed of them, but she desperately wished she could crawl back inside the dream. Her waking world was awful. She was holed up in an attic, buried under piles of half-rotten old blankets and clothes.
Upon leaving the truck, Annette had walked for some miles down the road, then took a left, and walked further until dawn was inevitable. It seemed like every building in the town was red brick, except for the church on St. Peter's Street, which had been grey brick. Despite the similarity, the buildings were all different in important ways. Old-fashioned architecture had style to it, and when they had built Salem, they cared. There were a lot of trees too, which she loved, they offered smells and textures that she had never known before. It was a very pleasant walk, right up until the light in the eastern sky grew.
It hurt, physically, even before the sun had risen, she felt it on her chest, reminding her of the doctor's hand pressing down, hard. It had made her thirst for blood spike to previously hidden levels, and she had barely been able to stand it. But she had stood it. The truck driver had been a terrible mistake, half way to Salem, she had lost control and fallen into a trance nearly identical to the one she had somehow laid on the driver. She had just reached out and pulled at one brilliantly shining vein in his neck with her fingernail, and he had gasped in shock and thrown open his eyes as wide as plates. The trance he was in broke, and he threw both hands up onto the wound just as the blood pumped out, spraying the air and splashing on the seat beside him, and across Annette's shoulder. She was lost to its power and almost put her mouth on the pulsing artery, but the truck flew into a roadside ditch and smashed itself to a sudden stop.
The shock and the following chaos brought Annette's mind back under her control. She had just reached over the trucker's belly and opened his door, then thrown him out bodily. He wasn't wearing a seatbelt, and the impact had dazed him. The bleeding wasn't so bad, she expected that he would probably live. In one smooth motion, she took his seat, threw the truck into reverse, and got it up out of the ditch. The truck was powerful and well-built, it had not been seriously damaged. In seconds, she was driving again, putting him behind her for his own good, though that was certainly not how he would describe it to the police if he lived. That was a pretty good IF, but she could hope. Either way, the police would be looking for the truck, so she had put as much distance between herself and it as possible, but the rising sun put a firm hand on her future and forced her to stop.
The attic room was in a commercial building, not a residential one, and the blankets and clothing that protected her from the painful rays of sunlight washing in from the one peaked window at the end of the room were all old, forgotten costumes from some kind of play or theatrical re-enactment. Salem had a famous history, after all, so of course its residents would sometimes play dress up. These Puritan costumes were no one's now though, fragments of a forgotten yesterday, cheap imitations of long ago. Still, they did what she needed them to until she woke again.
Unburying herself and yawning unhappily, she sat up and forced her mind away from the already growing pain in her stomach. She would have to find new clothes, the ones she was lying in were no good, and the shirt she was wearing was bloody. Clothes, and a toothbrush too, hell, a shower, maybe even another attempt at coffee. The memory of blood and coffee swirling together in her first moments of un-life was something she could use, like nicorette for a smoker, she could force herself to use coffee to avoid the blood impulses. At least, in theory.
For the moment, she tore off the bloodstained T-shirt with the cute but ferocious T-Rex stampeding across its front, and she wadded it up under all the blankets and costumes. She chose a faded white men's shirt from the pile and put it on. It was billowy like a pirate shirt and smelled musty, but it was better than walking around covered in blood, at least until she could raid a store and find something better. It wasn't until she was already out the door and creeping silently down the staircase into the lobby that realized pirates were not the only ones who walked around in puffy white shirts. She had somehow managed to dress herself like Dracula. The idea made her giggle, then choke on a full-bodied laugh. It was her first happy moment since dying.
When she was once again outside, she looked left, and right, and decided to backtrack a little toward the church. There had been plenty of little shops that way, this time of night they would be closed and empty, easy pickings if she was quick and silent. She knew there would be cameras and alarms, and maybe even security patrols, but they hardly mattered, because she knew already that she could be VERY quick when she wanted to be.
“Doctor Matwau?” Oliver said into his cell phone. “It's Oliver, over in Salem. I have her, I'm sure it's your girl. She is clearly on the run, doesn't even have shoes on and looks nervous as hell but she hasn't noticed me yet." He paused for a moment while the man on the other end spoke. "Yes sir," he said and pushed END CALL. He slipped the phone back into his pocket and leaned back on the wall he had been using as cover. She was in full view now, walking across the street with her back to him. Cute little thing, fresh as could be, despite the smell. Matwau was not just important around here, he was the boss, the manager of Vampiric affairs for the entire northeast coast, if such a title could exist. When he put the word out on a fugitive last night, everyone in the local Vampiric community heard it before sunrise. Oliver hardly expected to actually FIND the girl though, this was good, this could put him in Matwau's black book. The instruction was simple enough, Matwau was no kind-hearted old doctor, he was as cold as death. "Bring her in, cut her arms and legs off if you need to, just bring her in.”
Oliver didn't think he would go that far, but the impression Matwau left was clear. This kid was important.
He followed her as silently as the night air, as invisible as a cat in shadow.
His prey tonight was a tiger, a predator like him, a thing of darkness like him.
He would not underestimate her.
Matwau would have his plaything.
End. Part V 2016
Le Monstre se Réveille.
2017 Halloween special
Annette felt a little bad, just a little, as she broke into the second shop. She wondered about the owner, what kind of a person they were, whether they loved their life, or hated it. Annette loved the shop, and she thought that if she had such options in life, she would love to settle down and run a little shop just like it. A passing daydream, an impossible idea.
The shop was eclectic, the stock ranging from clothing to tea sets and nick-knacks, jewelery of course, locally made, little baubles glittering with faux crystal and semi-precious stones. Annette draped herself in various things, and cast them away, mindlessly wandering through the racks and looking not for a specific thing, but for an emotion. She wanted something that made her feel alive, something colourful. No alarm was ringing, so she lingered and savoured her time in the little place. The broken window wouldn't go unnoticed for long, even at this time of night, but she didn't care. With her new speed and strength, police were hardly a concern.
She held an evening gown of shimmering black gossamer and kneaded its material between her fingers. It was beautiful, formal and crisp, but it was wrong. She sighed and looked around a bit more. She stripped naked and left her dingy costume clothing in a heap for the owner to find. It would be amusing, something for the papers to comment on.
She found undergarments, sexy, but not too sexy to be uncomfortable, and she found a warm-looking earthy skirt with multiple layers. For a top, she chose a little white T and a heavy grey turtle neck sweater. It was the kind of sweater you could live in, cuddle up in on a cold autumn day. It did nothing to warm her though. Her cold body stayed cold. Her blood refused to warm.
She found tennis shoes and socks a few doors down, and a cool gold-plated pentacle necklace. She would fit right in around Salem with this outfit, and look cute doing it.
Her life of crime was far from over, none of the stores she had broken into had much in the till, even as a member of the undead, she would need money, but for tonight and maybe tomorrow, she was covered.
She walked out into the evening, smiled, then turned on her heel and started walking. She would find a hotel, something out of the way that would accept cash, and she would shower. Then, she thought that she might feel alive again, or close enough to it to count. The idea of going home flashed in her mind, pretending nothing had happened, settling back into her life. It was hopeless and pointless, she felt as connected to her old life as she was to a television character. There were memories, images and pale feelings, but they were unimportant and distant. What had happened to her affected far more than her body, it was in her heart, in her mind, it was her soul. She didn't feel empty, she felt new, she felt like a monster that had once dreamed of light.
"Hi," a voice said.
She looked toward the sound and saw a man standing in a narrow alleyway between two buildings. Her senses told her he was not prey, not a mortal, but a thing like herself. She staggered back, away from the open alley. He did not move.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"Oliver," he answered. "I'm here for you."
She knew exactly what he meant, there was no room for confusion. "Matwau?" she asked.
"Of course," he said. "You didn't think you could get away from him?"
"I still kind of do think that," she said, already moving. The sneakers came in useful, they were new and springy. Her legs soared and her body cut the wind like a knife. She ran.
She couldn't tell if he was following, but she assumed he would be. He must be. She focused on running, scissoring her legs and arms in long powerful strokes, barely touching the ground with the toes of her feet. Her face contorted into a fierce grin, and the wind ripped at her new skirt. It had been a mistake, but not a critical one, it moved with her well enough.
The world was a blur, nothing was solid and colours of brick and stone swam.
Sebastian woke suddenly, startled from a strange dream by a sense of dizziness and motion. He raked his hair back and tried to sit up, but failed. The little basement room was still glowing with the last light of day, peeking in around the heavy curtains. He felt the pressure of the sun holding him down but knew instinctively it would be gone in moments. Whatever magic it was that kept him still and dead in the daytime was undeniable, and absolute. It gave him hope though, that and so many other supernatural facts of his existence. If that could be true, if his total monstrosity could be possible, then surely there must also be room in the universe for goodness, for hope. If there could be a demon, perhaps there could also be an angel.
The sunset, and he was released from his phantom prison. He sat up and got out of bed. He stood naked for a moment, smelling the air. It was an old habit, one which made him feel a little safer. He scented the air for danger, for threats, for anything unexpected. As usual, there was nothing.
He went into the en-suite bathroom and stepped into the shower. The dead did not sweat, and he was not unclean, but showering was enjoyable. He meditated on his dream as water cascaded down over his head. It was faint now, but he couldn't fully shake it. He had been... running. Running from something, someone he couldn't see. He had been in New England somewhere, he was sure of it. Nowhere else on earth looked quite like New England.
Sebastian turned off the shower and stepped out. He dried himself off and swept his hair into neat form before the little medicine cabinet mirror above the sink. He emerged into the bedroom, dressed quickly in warm-looking grey woollen slacks and a white button-up shirt, then threw on a sweater that more or less matched the slacks. It was cool outside this time of year, and he had to blend in. He had no sensible coat with him but thought the sweater would do well enough. It wasn't quite winter yet after all.
He stopped at the window and pulled the curtain open to look out on the house's garden. Kristen, the nearly mythical vampire that could fight the urges of blood and survive with a pure existence. It was Sebastian's raw obsession, finding a cure for himself and others like him, it was an all-consuming passion. If not for it, he would be, like so many others, merely a reactionary creature, seeking blood and pleasure wherever possible, and hiding from humanity. But he had this goal, and it kept him sane. Unfortunately, Kristen was gone, and those who devoured her were like smoke in the wind. Ireland's usefulness had dried up. He could excavate the body, but if Sebastian had taken samples then there was no further reason to violate an old grave. Giving up was hard, maybe impossible, but this avenue of research was a dead end.
Albanus had told him a story of magic. Matwau had told him a story of science. Both had depended on blood being in the mouth of the victim, but those who made the angel, those who turned Kristen into whatever she was, had no recollection at all of transferring blood into the girl's mouth, although they admitted it was possible. Whatever the truth was, it was going to be difficult to overturn. He thought that his best bet lay with Matwau, at least for the moment. The girl was pulling him back there, some internal magic perhaps, or psychology. His dreams of running through old New England streets were still a whisp in the back of his mind. He would go to the airport tonight, and find his way back.
Annette had run for miles. She had run through streets and alleys and she had taken herself into the woods again. New woods, a new place, further and further from all known land. Where she was now, she could not guess. Boston was far behind, and now Salem too was a memory. She didn't even know what direction she faced. Eventually, she slowed to a fast walk, and sometime after that, she stopped and sat down. Barely tired, not breathing fast, not even breathing at all. No racing of the heart within her chest, it beat cold blood, slow and steady. Snow had started to fall, light and gentle from the heavens, vanishing when it touched the leaves of the trees or the ground, as though it had never been real at all. But on her, it settled.
It was dark here in these woods, wherever she was, there was only a sliver of moon in the sky above, and clouds obscured the stars. Still, her new eyes could see all that was around her, in strange pale blue un-light. She saw a raccoon hiding beneath the fallen log and knew it thought itself invisible. She saw the owl in the tree to her left, wary and curious, sure of its invisibility. These creatures of the night were hers now, her kin and her fellows. She knew a companionship with them that was both strange and instinctively familiar. She could sense their minds. It was gentle, odd, and beautiful. Something to explore later.
Whoever the man chasing her was, she believed that she lost him. She listened carefully, and looked hard into the far distance, as well as her keen new eyes could look. Nothing stirred, nothing at all indicated danger. Yet, she knew it was not safe. Wisdom simply insisted that such a person could not be easily escaped. Perhaps though, he had not expected her to run, or perhaps he was not as swift as she. Even in life, she had always been a good runner.
Annette, like the raccoon and the owl, was invisible in the darkness, still as stone, quiet as the smallest mouse, or more so in truth. Yet she knew that he could see her if he were here to see. There was no hiding from such a being if he were there to look. That was the question. Was he there?
She reached gently out to the mind of the owl, testing it. It responded, and they met each other's eyes. The owl was hers now, it was a part of her, a hand of her body. She opened it, and it lifted off into the air.
Snow fell on Annette for the next fifteen minutes. The ground's warmth evaporated the snow, but Annette had no warmth, and she was soon covered in a blanket of white crystals. She was unaware of it, her mind was not there. Annette flew over the forest, seeing with eyes not her own, sharper even than those of the vampire.
The owl looked and looked, and finally saw. A hundred yards from Annette, he stood, still and silent, behind a tree. He was waiting for Annette to assume herself safe. He was waiting for her to let down her guard. He was a careful and thinking predator. A patient one. The owl saw a steel knife in his hand. Long, and sharp, curved inward with a wicked and heavy edge. The knife of an assassin. Annette was sure that the weapon was dangerous, despite her strength and power. Strength and power he had also, he was the same creature as she, but he had also the knife. Annette did not know if she could escape him, or overcome him in a fight. She needed another plan.
Her mind abandoned seduction as a tool. He was surely too old and too wise to fall for a ploy like that. She considered playing helpless and begging for mercy, but she thought that too was predictable and tired. There were few options, none perfect. Dawn was yet half the night away, and no help was anywhere in her world. Except perhaps the voice of her dreams, or the one that it called a fool. Sebastian. "Run, little Goddess. Run away. Matwau is an enemy. Sebastian is a fool. Run, and find me, sister. Run away." Those words had preceded her awakening at the hospital. She still knew not from where they came, but they were not born in her mind, she knew that. Somewhere, somehow, someone was calling her. Who was Sebastian though? Fool or not, she would like an ally. And why did this voice not come to her? Or tell her where to run?
She let go of the owl and felt herself wake up within her own body. The problem was significant, the answers were unformed vapours. Without a plan, she knew the only choice that left her intact was to surrender. "Come out," she said loudly, returning her awareness to her body. "I know you are there." She shifted toward him, and snow fell from her head.
She called, louder. “I have seen you, behind the tree, I see your knife. Come out.”
A moment passed, and then he emerged. He looked confused, unsure. This was interesting but irrelevant. His confusion as to how he had been seen was not going to help her win a fight.
“You will take me back to Matwau?” she asked.
“I will,” he answered.
“It's easier for us both if I allow it,” she said.
He nodded but still looked unsure. "You will come, one way or the other," he said.
“Then let's go,” she shook the snow from her shoulders. “Is it that way?” she asked, honestly not knowing, but thinking she had it generally right.
He nodded. “I have a car back in Salem,” he said. “We'll walk, you ahead of me. If you run again, I'll cut the tendons in your legs.”
She bit her lip and walked toward him, passed him with a look, and went ahead. He fell in behind her. "You said your name is Oliver," she said.
“Yeah,” he answered.
“Nice,” he muttered.
“Why do you work for Matwau?”
“I don't, but the word is out on you, he will pay. Everyone around here knows him, no one argues when he talks.”
“Maybe I could pay,” she tried.
“No you can't,” he laughed. “Matwau will give me something far better than money, he will give me a place to stay, and a hooker every day. For years, maybe decades. The easy life.”
Annette grimaced. Certainly, she couldn't match that offer. "That's a high price," she said.
“Yeah,” he agreed.
He shrugged, the slight shift of his clothing enough for her to know the gesture, although her back was to him.
“Who am I that he thinks me so valuable?”
"I dunno," he allowed.
“Maybe I'm more valuable than you know. Maybe there is a better price you could ask.”
“I'm not picky,” he said.
”Maybe someone else could match the offer, sweeten it.”
“Who?” he asked.
“Who do you think?” it was a blind play. Maybe there was someone else, maybe he knew of the someone, maybe the voice in her head was someone important, powerful.
“I don't know what the hell you're talking about Annette,” he said. “Some ancient? What, Dracula maybe?” He laughed.
“Sebastian,” she tried.
He shrugged again. “Never heard of him. Not interested.”
She remained silent and walked. The play was over, she could add nothing more to it. Unless something changed, she would be brought back to Matwau.
“He will hurt me,” she said, appealing to whatever morals the man, Oliver, might have.
“Yeah?” he said, curious. He did not stop walking, or even slow.
The truth was, Annette didn't know what Matwau wanted. She had run out of confusion and fear, largely, because the voice in her head had told her to. It was madness, maybe, but it felt important to escape. "He's insane too, if you don't know him, then you should leave me and run yourself. He might kill you for knowing about me."
“Nah,” Oliver said.
“You don't believe me?” she asked.
“No, not really, not even a little. You're new huh?”
“New? Yeah,” she said, adopting his casual affectation. “I'm just a day old, maybe two, I was out for a while.”
“No kidding?” he asked.
They trod on through the woods, growing close to a road now. Around them, the quiet night pressed in. “No kidding,” she confirmed. “I guess they think I'm special.”
“You'd have to be, yeah,” he snickered. “You're valuable. And way too fast for a newborn. You're full'a shit.”
Annette didn't quite know how to respond to that. She had assumed her strength and speed were just part of the package for her kind. “You think I'm lying?” she asked.
“Sure,” he said.
“Yeah.” He laughed.
This Oliver would be a tough one to crack, he didn't seem to care enough about anything she said to make an opportunity out of conversation. She let him walk her to the road, and out down along it for a while. Buildings replaced trees, and after a while, they were back in semi-familiar territory. A police car was outside the little shops she had robbed. Its lights were off, and no officer was in sight, likely he or she was prowling the interior of the buildings, making sure that no perpetrator of ill deeds lingered there. They went past without slowing and shortly found themselves at a parking lot. One car was there, a long reddish-purple Cadillac from the late 1970's.
“Yours?” she asked, letting scorn tinge her voice.
"Hey, she's a classic," he defended. He went around the car and keyed open the trunk.
Annette looked down into the trunk and wondered why he would make such an obvious mistake. “You want me in there?” she tried to sound nervous about it, hiding the secret giddiness that erupted in her belly. Escaping from the trunk would be simple.
"Oh hell no," he said and reached into the trunk.
It was her moment, he was looking away, if only for a second. She struck with full force, using her little stubby fingernails like spoons, digging into the ice-cream white skin of his neck. He howled, and an explosion rocked her universe. Unexpected, unforeseen, unknown, where, how, an explosion of pain and colour and noise, terrible noise. Her head rang and shook, and hurt. He had been reaching for a shotgun. His hand had been on it when she attacked. He had shot her in the side of the head. She reeled and staggered, and screamed. He spun slowly howled, and clutched at his neck. She had hurt him too, worse than she even meant to, a chunk of his neck was clutched in her fingers, sopping with blood.
They saw each other, they knew each other. The two monsters met. There was pain, clutching, biting, and clawing, there was motion, they rolled in the gravel and dust. Annette and Oliver snarled and spat, and fought. His knife was gone, somewhere unknowable. The gun was dropped, somewhere forgotten. They were two beasts in a pit, set to tear each other apart.
Oliver was strong, but she was stronger, she felt it, knew it, he was not pressing, he was being pressed. He was bigger, but there was less of him. Annette savaged him, she assaulted his form without thought, she tore, punched, and kneed, and she strangled.
He reached for her eyes, and his hands were met by hers. They struggled in rage and fury, and he buckled. She bent his arms, and they broke. She bit deep into his neck, and she drank the monster's strength.
It was so sweet, so pure. It was ecstasy, it was milk and honey, it was nectar. Man knew no drug so potent, Odin knew no mead so intoxicating. It was blood, but it was the blood of the powerful, the blood of a thing like her. She drowned herself in it. She sipped unto the last, she drank until the well was empty.
The woman was drinking his blood. She was covered in his blood, and he was ripped open in a dozen places, his head was practically off because the woman was biting so deep. Sarah Adama was alone, her partner had called in sick and she had offered to ride alone. They said that Halloween got crazy around Salem, but she had no idea. This was so much worse than the usual vandals and junkies.
"Pol..." She felt bile rise in her throat, and she swallowed it back. She brought her gun up and pointed it at the woman. "Police!" she said.
The woman didn't heed her, didn't even look at her. She was consumed by her act of cannibalism.
“Police, drop him and step back!” Sarah yelled. It was too late to save the man, but she didn't want to let the woman continue her obscene feast.
The woman slowed and stopped, and dropped the man. Sarah didn't know if it was because of her order, or because the woman was simply done. She hadn't responded to her yet.
"Bath salts?" Sarah asked rhetorically, wondering honestly if the street drug could cause this, or if the woman in front of her was also insane. She touched her radio. "10-33, uh, 39, need assistance, the parking lot at my last 20."
The woman slowly turned to look at her. She was soaked in gore, like Carrie at the prom.
“10-69,” her dispatcher replied, sounding more distant than ever before, despite the clear signal. “What's your status?”
“Ma'am, I need you to put your hands on your head, take a big step back, and then get on your knees. Do you understand?” Sarah held her gun tightly, focusing on the woman's chest. She was ready to fire. She wanted to fire. This woman scared the hell out of her.
The woman just stared, eyes narrow, calculating. She licked her lips.
“Ma'am, Do as I said right now,” Sarah yelled. “Hands on your head. Step the fuck back. Get on your knees.”
The woman staggered a little and looked at her hands. She looked back up at Sarah and stepped forward.
Sarah almost fired her gun but held her peace. She stepped back as the woman stepped forward. "Stop!" she shouted, with as much authority as she could muster. "I will fire. Do you understand? Step back."
The woman stopped and touched the side of her head. Sarah noticed now that the woman was injured. The gunshot that had drawn her here might have hit this woman. Some of the gore, certainly not all of it, was her own. "We can get you help ma'am, alright?" She touched her radio again. "10-52, and 79. What's the E.T.A.?"
“Two minutes Officer Adama,” dispatch said.
“Okay, you hear that?” she told the woman. “Help is coming. Now I still want you on your knees okay? Get on your knees right now.” She tried softening her tone, hoping that friendliness might guide this insane woman to calm down.
“My name is Annette,” the woman said. “What's yours?”
“On your knees right now,” Sarah said, more firmly.
“I can't, I don't...” the woman looked away. “I don't think you should arrest me.”
“Ma'am,” Sarah said. “Annette? Annette, listen to me, you need help, I am on your side okay? I am your friend, here to help.”
Annette looked back at her. “I have to go,” she said.
"Annette, you aren't going anywhere," Sarah said. Except, it wasn't true. Somehow, it wasn't true. Annette had gone. She was just no longer standing there. She vanished.
Sarah heard sirens in the distance. A mingling of two beautiful songs, police and ambulance. She turned around, her gun held out, as though the woman might apparate from the shadows.
A gurgling noise drew her attention, and Sarah turned to look. The body was moving, its jaw slowly working in the air, its fingers twitching. Nerves, she told herself. It was practically decapitated, it couldn't be alive. Then the eyes focused on her and blinked. Twice. A hand reached up to her.
Sarah screamed and staggered back. Her gun went off in her hand, and part of the victim's head dissolved.
The sirens grew louder.
Annette watched the emergency vehicles pull in from the roof of the building next to the parking lot. Above the scene of her earlier petty robbery. She would need new clothes again, and desperately, a shower. Being a vampire was messy and difficult, but it had advantages. The blood. Gods but the blood of Oliver had been pure. It woke something deep inside her, something old, and dark. She wanted more. Not human, no, she wanted the blood of monsters.
On the plane to Boston, Sebastian dreamed of violence.
End Part VI
Le Monstre se Réveille.
2018 Halloween special.
Sebastian slept on the plane back to America. Flying was difficult for vampires, but most older vampires had a fairly large resource pool, and Sebastian was no exception, money was easy to come by after all, so he usually chartered a small plane when travelling. Cross-oceanic trips weren't so easy, but private jets could be found. Often, several vampires would share the cost and schedule trips together. Sebastian preferred solitude when travelling. He also preferred sailing whenever the option was available, ships seemed more natural to him. On the way over, he had booked first class and slept under a blanket, with his shade drawn during the daylight portion of the flight. On the way back, he had arranged a ride on a private jet owned by his sire, Niobe Valerius. They hadn't talked in six years or so, so she had been interested in catching up, as a result, he was now locked into the cabin of the plane with her for the next several hours. It wasn't unwelcome, but it was always a little like reporting to a teacher.
Niobe was regal, a woman of stature and elegance. She exuded an air of authority with her nature and her appearance, she was strict, in an old-fashioned sense. The thin, hawk-featured black woman wore a grey wool dress that touched her ankles, with a white collar and a demure opal cameo choker. She sat on a leather luxury seat with legs crossed and a glass of blood-tinged wine in her hand. Sebastian sat across from her, though the cabin of the plane was small, he felt exposed in her presence.
“So this girl you have sired is running from old Joe?” Niobe questioned.
“It seems so,” Sebastian admitted. “I hope he catches her quickly, she could get into a lot of trouble I suppose.”
“You do not know the shaman of Boston well then,” Niobe stated.
“Joe?” Sebastian said. “No, I'd never met him before, I don't care for the new world, so I seldom travel there.”
“He has a reputation among our kind as a cruel man, a scientist, and a brilliant one perhaps, but an unpleasant sort.”
Sebastian recalled the man telling him of experiments on a living vampiric brain that had left the subject damaged beyond repair. “I think I understand,” he said. “But he has no reason to hurt her.”
"Then why did she run?" Niobe asked. "We are instinctive creatures, Sebastian, this was your first lesson, wasn't it? Do you remember it?"
Sebastian smiled as his mind turned inward. His own making had been a soft thing, a love affair. Niobe was a strict woman, but a passionate one, and she enjoyed mortal lovers. Sebastian had died in the throes of ecstasy, and been reborn in her private tomb, laid among hundreds of lovingly wrapped bodies of her former affairs. He remembered waking up naked under a white linen wrap and pulling himself out like a moth emerging from a cocoon. Finding himself alone in a dark crypt, surrounded by the dead, he had not felt fear. Only blood lust, only the urge to go out and hunt. Instinct. When Niobe had realized he was turned, she had sought him out, and he had not been afraid of her either, even though he knew she had killed him. Instinct told him she was safe, she was family. He could not recall ever being afraid of another vampire in the early part of his new life. He had learned to fear a few later, but the nature of the beast was to accept others like one's self. “You think he gave her reason to fear him,” he said.
“I know he did,” Niobe acknowledged. “The question is why?”
"He does experiments, even on vampires," Sebastian told her of the brain surgery Joe had performed.
“His subject still lives and suffers, for his further experimentation no doubt,” she mused. “He would need to do more than one such experiment. Yes, your progeny is in danger. Now the question is, do you care?”
“I think I do,” Sebastian said.
Niobe sipped from her glass. “Joe has lied to you, possibly attacked your kindred, he has therefore attacked you. He has therefore attacked me. We will go together to him and sort this out.”
“You need not...” Sebastian started.
She shot him a look and raised a finger. “You will be surrounded by his allies, you will need help. Did I teach you to walk blindly into danger? Anything he has done to your kindred, he will also do to you.”
“Then two of us is not enough,” Sebastian said. “He has a small army of doctors with him. If we go together, it shows that we are enemies, if I walk in alone, perhaps we can yet be friends. I must refuse your help.”
Niobe thought it over silently. She finished her wine, stood, and walked to the liquor cabinet. She poured herself another glass, and one for Sebastian, then returned and handed him the drink, but she did not sit down again. She held her glass out to him in a toast. “To your fortune then my old lover, all the blessings that I can give are yours. When you see Joe, if you feel the need, remind him that I am in America. He will understand the threat.”
Sebastian clinked her glass gently.
"The sun rises soon," she said, turning toward the sleeping cabin at the rear of the plane. "Come, and make love to me for old times' sake."
Sebastian drained his glass, and rose from his seat. She drained hers in the same fashion and set down the glass.
Sebastian undressed as they walked toward the door to the sleeping cabin, it was her preference to be undressed by a nude man, he recalled well. Foreplay with Niobe was exquisite, lengthy, and usually painful. With the sun rising, however, they would have to forgo the longer play.
He closed the door behind him, pitching the room into near-total darkness. His vampiric senses woke to the sensation of darkness. He could see her hard frame standing at the foot of the bed, waiting like a statue. He knelt, and slowly, he approached, supplicant to her majestic power. She touched his cheek, and he felt electrified with her energy. His sex grew hard. He rose against her, and pressed himself into her, kissing and groping with sacrilegious urgency. He found the zipper of her dress and pulled it from her bony frame with one motion and vampiric speed. She wore lacy black undergarments, defying her outer appearance of rigid conservatism. Sebastian knelt again and kissed her between the legs.
The young man tied up in the corner sobbed through his gag. Sebastian looked over at the unfortunate victim and felt a pang of pity. He never liked Niobe's way of showing off and playing with her food. But he had long ago learned to accept it. He returned to the task before him with the vigour that only a vampire could produce.
Annette dreamed of sex and darkness. She woke at the moment of sunset with a wetness between her legs and an urge to breathe that she had not felt since emerging from the soil that first night. She was in a hotel suite, still in Salem, the Clipper Ship Inn. It was a nice place, clean and large, but not too fancy. After stealing new clothes and washing herself in a public bathroom, Annette had found her way here and checked in barely before the sun had risen.
She went to the bathroom and stripped naked, stepping into the shower and turning it to hot. She was cold, always so cold, the hot water on her skin burned, but it felt good. She wondered if it would redden her. Steam filled the bathroom. She touched herself, wondering at the sexual thrill of her dream. Since turning, she hadn't had a single sexual thought and hadn't noticed the lack of it. There had been so much pain and confusion and chaos that it was hardly surprising, but she was glad to know that the human urge was not gone. Her life before death was irrelevant, none of it mattered at all, but she remembered enjoying herself. She recalled midnight kissing with a girlfriend or two, and one clumsy encounter with a boy at school. Annette was still a virgin, however. She had held onto that much longer than most of her friends and had been proud of it. She didn't want to anymore, the animal was awake within her. She was hungry, she wanted to feel.
She emerged from the shower and towelled off rapidly, then dressed in a hurry. She had no makeup or toiletries and made a mental note to correct that. Her reflection was too pale. Refection. She laughed, she was glad to see that she had one.
Leaving the hotel, she drew in a deep breath of early night air. The dying embers of the sun still brightened the sky, though it had set. It didn't hurt. She chose a direction and started walking. If she intended to use the hotel again, she couldn't hunt near it. But she needed to hunt. Not the living, no, she wanted to experience the power and pleasure of vampire blood again. It was a thrill and an addiction.
Fallen leaves crunched under Annette's feet, rust-coloured and dry. All her vampiric ability was defied by the leaves, there would be no silent stalking on these streets. She hunted without a target anyway, the longer that she walked, the more it pressed on her mind that her prey would not be easy to find. Humans were everywhere, they were still out in droves at this early hour, it was only eight o'clock or so. Some of the shops were even open, though not many. Humans. Annette mulled the word. Was she not human? Was she not still alive? Was she not still a person? Her blood was cold, but her heart still beat. "I think, therefore I am," she told herself. A quote from an unremembered philosopher. She stopped to take in her surroundings.
She had been moving fast, too fast given the human presence on the streets. She would have to slow down unless speed was necessary. She was standing on Warf Street, in a little market area by a marina. Beautiful old buildings occupied the streets, red brick and wood siding creating the perfect impression of vintage Americana, with a tiny occult shop creating the perfect impression of Salem. A sign in the window offered psychic readings, and Annette considered it. A little help wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, even from the spirit world. She laughed at her skepticism, a vampire doubting ghosts. The shop also offered books, and she wondered if there would be any hope of finding a book on her condition. She went in half for fun, half for real need. It was a homey shop, filled with good smells and interesting knick-knacks. Jewellery, spiritual paraphernalia, candles. This close to Halloween, they would be doubly popular, but Annette was still surprised to find them open late.
"Hey, we're just closing," a girl said from behind the till. She was pretty, slender, and tattooed. She wore a black T-shirt with the name of the shop on the front, and black make-up with silver jewellery, very Goth punk. "Two minutes okay?"
“Sure,” Annette said. Wasting no more time, she went to the books section and looked them over, hoping for something about vampires to stand out. Unfortunately, they covered Wicca, crystals, pendulums, tarot, runes, fairies, druids, and everything else occult without a single title about vampires. They also had some local history books, as one could expect.
“Hey,” she said to the girl at the front. “Do you know anything about vampires? Like, real ones?”
“Like those people with porcelain teeth and shit?” the girl asked. “Hardcore role players, that kind of thing?”
“No,” Annette said. “I was looking for a book on modern anthropological folklore I guess, something that describes contemporary vampire mythology.”
"Oh cool, we don't have anything like that, but we can order specific titles."
"Another time," Annette said. She found herself gazing at the girl's neck, but the draw for her blood was weak, like a tiny rumbling in her belly. "Thanks," she said and left the store. The girl locked up behind her. Through the glass, Annette could hear the girl mutter to herself, "Salem is such a fucking weirdo magnet." As a human, she never would have heard the comment.
Annette looked away and saw a bar & grille across the street. Gaudy Halloween decorations hung from posts out front, and the window signs offered Corona and Budweiser. Annette sighed at the ease of food and drink for the living. She WAS hungry, but human blood wouldn't be enough. She wondered how to satiate her craving. Memories of the dark, beautiful blood of the vampire that attacked her flooded her mind, and she salivated. “What the fuck do I do now?” she asked herself.
She almost missed the answer staring her in the face, her eyes drifted across it without seeing it, then something in the back of her mind pinged, and she looked back. A touristy gimmick, probably nothing, but maybe. A tacked-up computer printout on the bar's post offered Salem Ghost tours. Hauntings, Witches, Vampires, and the Paranormal! It went on to list times and locations to meet the tour group and prices. Annette still had more than enough cash to join the tour, and it started in just one hour, at this very restaurant. It was a long shot, but maybe it would offer her some ideas if not real hope.
She went into the bar and ordered a Corona, just so she could wait there without trouble. The beer smelled weak, but unappetizing, she tasted it out of curiosity and found it disgusting, the beer was ripe with notes of putrescence and abrasive gasoline-like burning. She spat it back into the bottle discretely. She hadn't expected it to be so strong. Memory told her that Corona was watery and dull, better than American beer, but still no prize winner. Memory was biased toward mortal senses.
Time passed, and a small crowd gathered outside by the post. A man in costume came out, and Annette discretely joined the group at the back. He began talking, first about the tour rates, most of the crowd had pre-booked, but Annette and a couple of other stragglers had to pay in cash. Once that was dealt with, he began walking, and the group followed along, listening as he talked about the Pickering Warf Marina's history of hauntings. Annette found herself drawn in by his storytelling, irrelevant or not, it was amusing, and a distraction from her hunger. He walked them up Derby Street to the Burying Point cemetery, where several famous persons related to the Salem Witch Trials were interred, including a judge. Annette noted that the tour went past several occult shops, the Witch Village, and a Wax Museum dedicated to witches and seafarers. There was nothing subtle about the locations, but they were very appropriate. Even Annette got a little thrill out of it all.
The cemetery was lovely, quiet, and interesting, but offered nothing that a vampire would find convenient as a hiding place. Annette had little experience with her kind, but she intuited that this tour was going nowhere. She raised her hand as the tour guide led them to a witch trials memorial.
“Yes, in the back?” the guide pointed to her. The whole crowd looked at her expectantly, most annoyed at her interruption.
She smiled as nicely as possible. “I was wondering about vampires, your sign mentioned them.”
“A worthy question!” he exclaimed dramatically. “One we will be coming to soon, I assure you. Patience will reward greatly!”
Annette shrugged and smiled again, deciding to hold out for the moment. The tour went through the memorial, and down the street, and finally, when they arrived in front of an old brick church, she found herself feeling a tingle in her spine, and scenting something in the air that felt familiar. She wasn't sure, it was subtle, but she thought it might be something like herself.
"And now we come to the vampires!" the tour guide raised his voice. "And we hope they do not come to us." He spoke briefly about the origins of the church, and Catholicism in early Salem, and just when Annette was getting annoyed again, he got to the good part. "In the year nineteen hundred, rumours of a Vampire began to spring up in the village, pigs were dying unnatural deaths, and two local men had gone missing. The witch trials were long past, but still, the town had a reputation for the unusual." He went on, and Annette realized more and more that his story was irrelevant. She could, however, sense something. She let herself drift back from the little crowd and vanished as smoothly as she could around the side of the church. She moved quickly from there down the street, following the tingle away from the historical district over to a more mundane, but no less interesting or old business area. She stopped in front of a tattoo parlour and took a long, deep breath. At a second-storey window, a face appeared. They met eyes, two things of darkness, two monsters, and they knew each other. A moment later, the man was standing in the street in front of her, eyeing her up and down.
"You're that little thing Joe is hunting for," he said. There was a strong New England accent on his tongue. Stronger than any she had heard before. He was tall and handsome, but rough-looking. He had an enviable moustache that would have been in fashion during the nineteen seventies. Annette wondered if she could grow body hair anymore, or if his moustache was as old as it looked.
“Yeah, so you want to catch me?” she asked.
A car drove past behind her, playing loud dance music. The teenagers inside it howled along with the music, reminding her that it was still early and that they were in public. She held herself in check.
“Surrendering to old doctor Joe, you're a bit of a nit-wit aren't you?” he said.
“Nit-wit? Jesus, how old are you?” she scorned.
“Older than you're going to get apparently.” He shrugged. “Okay, consider yourself caught, want a drink while we wait for the mad scientist and his gang of ghouls?” He gestured to his apartment above the tattoo parlour.
“Sure,” she smiled.
They went up together without speaking and entered his apartment. It was a modern unit, with an open floor plan. There was no television, no computer, no stereo and no electronics of any kind, but there were enough books on the shelves to fill a small bookstore. There were two large soft chairs by the front windows, each with a lamp over the shoulder, otherwise, there was no furniture in the main room. A bedroom at the back was dark and cozy looking, with an antique maple four-poster bed, matching armoire and dresser. "Nice place," she said, honestly meaning it. She browsed the nearest bookshelf and was unsurprised to find vintage copies of poetry and literature, most of which she didn't recognize.
The man went to the kitchenette at the back and poured a drink for each of them. "It's bloody, you'll like it," he said. "Not fresh, but it keeps well in the alcohol."
"I tried a beer earlier and it was horrible, is that the new normal?" she asked.
“It was a hundred years before I could manage mortal food again,” he said. “But there are a few things we can take in, like this. Human blood, a little rattlesnake blood, Russian Standard vodka, a hint of cinnamon, all steeped with a few cloves. It'll shock your senses at first, but let it sit on your tongue for a second, you'll enjoy it.” He came over and handed her the muddy drink.
Annette sniffed it and liked what she smelled. She tried it as instructed and nearly choked on the potent flavours. A second later, she realized that she was very much enjoying it. She swallowed, and tried another sip, this time she was prepared for it, and savoured it. "That's nice," she said.
"I'll call Joe then, I think I remember the number." He walked over to one of the bookshelves and pulled down an old phone. It wasn't a rotary, but it was pretty close. The receiver was enormous.
Annette was on him before he could dial the first number. She bit deep and hard, latching onto his back with her legs and arms, pinning him as best she could. The surge of his blood in her mouth brought her strength, and she forced him tighter against her body. He yelped in surprise and threw himself backward. They ran into a bookshelf on the other side of the room, Annette felt her head meet hardwood, and she was jostled free of his neck. He took the advantage, and elbowed her in the solar plexus, hard enough to dent steel. She dropped, coughing up his blood onto the floor. He kicked out at her, not hesitating for even a second. She felt the boot snap a rib in her side but grabbed at the leg that offended her. She bit deep into the back of the knee, through his denim pants. A tendon ripped between her teeth., and she pulled back. He shrieked in pain and beat at her head and back, she released his knee and found an artery in the thigh. She was at it in a second, and pressing him down to the floor. He hit hard and tried to roll away, flailing at her as much as he could. Incoherently shouting as he fought.
Annette ripped in deeper and drank. She drank as he stopped fighting, drank until he stopped bleeding. It was bliss, the power and the taste, the pure flow of his blood. She pulled herself up and licked at his neck injury until it too was dry.
There was blood everywhere. The carpet was saturated in it and the walls and books were covered in arterial spray. She hadn't realized that she was making such a mess. Looking down, she saw that she was soaked in blood again. "Shit," she said to the room.
The body twitched, kicked out, and then lay still, eyes gazing up at her, still filled with rage and life. The mouth tried to move but failed.
"That sucks dude," she said. "Get better soon okay? Love youuuuuuu." She blew him a bloody kiss and looked for the bathroom. It was an en-suite to the bedroom. She stripped, and showered, then ransacked his bedroom for clothes. He was larger than her, and his style was old-fashioned and masculine, but she found slacks and a blue-grey shirt that would pass casual inspection. She forewent underwear. Shoes were a no-go too. His were far too large and looked rank.
She came out to the front room again, surveyed the bloody crime scene, and wondered if and how he might recover. She made herself another drink, just like the one he had made, but she soaked up his blood from the floor with a rag and used it instead of human blood. It was divine. "Hey," she said, picking a book off the shelf at random and crossing to sit in one of the chairs by the window. "Do you know a vampire called Sebastian?"
The body stared at her.
“He's my sire, there's this... voice in my head, it told me his name, called me sister. You know anything about that?”
The body remained still.
“No?” she asked. She looked at the book in her hands. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. A signed first edition. “Wow,” she said, admiring the book for a moment. “Hey, so, who could do that? Talk to me in my head? What the fuck right? It's like, some kind of ancient vampire, Dracula maybe? Lestat?”
The body blinked slowly, and the eyes opened again with haze over them. They were unfocused.
“Are you dying? CAN we die? Shit, so many questions. I should have talked to you first but I was SO hungry. I couldn't think straight.”
The body twitched a little.
Annette threw the book into a corner of the room. “Maybe next time. You seemed cool, for a moustache man. Those are so last century." She walked across to the door and opened it. Her bare feet left bloody footprints as she tracked through a pool of cold wet blood. She stopped and turned back to him. "I guess if you do live, you'll be pretty pissed." She thought about her options, and saw one in the kitchenette, sticking out of a chopping block. A long, sharp option. She closed the door and walked back across the room. She selected a serrated knife and walked back to the body. "Relax, this'll hurt like a bitch," she said. "Unless you're already dead."
She sawed into him, cutting the heart to ribbons with several slow strokes of the blade. She moved up and did as much damage to the neck as possible. The knife was not up to the task of decapitating the bloodless corpse, but she did a thorough job. “Have any garlic?” she asked, straightening back up. “I should stuff your mouth with garlic, I remember that from somewhere. Oh well, I'll take my chances I guess. Wasted enough time here. I'll take the snake blood and vodka and stuff okay? I could use a couple more tonight when I get to my hotel. Nothing personal, I'm turning into a real thief these days. I suck, I know.”
She gathered the ingredients from his kitchen and fled the scene. By the time she reached her hotel room again, it was still only midnight. She rented an animated Batman movie on the hotel's T.V. service and poured a drink. "Here's to the moustache man," she said, toasting her kill.
Annette was aware of her growing violence, it was impossible not to be. She was a nice girl once, an honest and caring girl. It all seemed so distant now. Removed from herself. Sebastian had changed her, robbed her of everything she was and given her everything she was. She wanted to confront him, to know him. She understood him already, she knew why, but now she wanted to know the man. A big part of her wanted to kill him, but she had to ask someone her questions. Might as well be him, she figured.
She watched the movie and drank. Happily, she got quite drunk. She had worried that might not be possible. When she slept, she did not dream, and no voices haunted her.
“Joe,” Sebastian said as he approached the older vampire. They were meeting in Joe's office, just after sunset on the day after his plane had landed. He tried to chase his dreams to find the girl, but they were hazy, rapid images with little useful information. He didn't think she was afraid anymore, and she was stronger now. That seemed very true.
Joe stuck out his hand and took Sebastian's. “Good to see you back,” he said.
“Has there been any luck?” Sebastian asked.
"No," Joe let go of his hand and went around his desk. "Unfortunately, we are developing something of a problem. She has killed two innocent vampires, unrelated to each other or me, I thought maybe you might know them, know why she killed them."
“Killed?” Sebastian said in genuine shock. “Killed vampires? How?”
"Drained them, left one for the sunrise, in the hands of a mortal police officer no less. That was David Hanson. She left him just lying out in the street. Then last night, she killed Stewart le'Ranger. Drained dry, and almost sawed his head off. The scene is apparently a blood bath. It might have gone unnoticed and found by the mortals as well, but he had a girlfriend stop in, she called me in tears just a few minutes ago and told me about it all. I have a cleaner going there now."
“By God,” Sebastian said, sinking into a chair across from the doctor.
"That would be unlikely," Joe smirked. "She has been gifted with great power. You have an unusual offspring. Certainly no angel."
“Perhaps an avenging angel,” Sebastian said.
Joe said nothing.
“Niobe came across with me, she is in America,” Sebastian said. “Perhaps I should tell her of this, she could help.”
"No need," Joe showed no sign of interest in the name of Sebastian's sire. "We have a trail and we can follow it. I have skilled people around the city looking out for her. She'll be stopped."
“How depressing,” Sebastian said. “My first offspring, and she is mad.”
"Perhaps. She will be valuable to my work though, it is so rare to have any deviation from the norm for a vampire and this could be tremendously useful data. How was Ireland?"
Sebastian nodded. “Ireland was beautiful but not very educational. I think perhaps the idea of blood drops on the tongue is not important to the creation of an angel. Albanus was wrong about that. There was no such transference with Kristen, the Irish Angel.”
“Wonderful,” Joe said. “That increases the odds of duplicating her dramatically.”
“They also did not pray to Hades, they swear it was all an accident.” Sebastian sighed.
“As I thought I recalled, but your trip was worthwhile. I was not there when she was made, and my notes from the time do not go into detail on it.”
"I'd like to go out and hunt the girl myself," Sebastian said.
“I won't stop you, but she is lethal. You should leave it for those inclined to rough work. I have such men looking for her. You're an academic.”
Sebastian nodded. “Perhaps, but I am her sire, and I dream of her.”
“Dreams?” Joe asked.
“Just dreams,” Sebastian said, suddenly feeling possessive of his psychic link to the girl.
Joe looked thoughtful. “Dreams are powerful,” he said. “I'll give you some herbs and incense that will induce deep dreams. They are back at my house, will you stay with me while you're in town? I have plenty of room.”
Sebastian paused. It would be rude, even odd, to refuse, but he was wary of Joe. Niobe had been wise to caution him. “I already have a place, but thank you,” he said.
“I'll have them sent then. Good luck in your hunt. I have work to do here.”
“Where was she last then? Where was the body?”
“Oh, in the city,” Joe said. “Down by the Islamic Centre in Roxbury.”
Sebastian thanked him and left. Joe was lying when he said Roxbury, he knew it. He didn't know where the girl was, but he thought he felt a pull, and he went in that direction. Boston was a huge city, and she could be anywhere, but he thought North felt right, away from where Joe had been directing him. Maybe even across the water in East Boston.
He got into his rental car and drove, feeling his way, and letting the wheel turn when it seemed right. He drove across the bridge, and kept going, through Chelsea and Revere, and up the highway to Lynn. Still, she felt north, and he went on. The next town was Salem. There were few places on Earth quite so appropriate for a newly turned Vampire. Suddenly, he knew she was there. He felt her, felt her hunting, out in the streets, looking for prey. He drove into Salem and drove up the waterfront. He pulled his car to the curb at a ballpark by a marina. She was near, he knew it. And she was hungry.
Annette woke up that morning just as hungry as the day before. She was scared that hunger might not be sustainable. Her kills were sloppy, and vampires were surely not that common. She remembered the truck driver and wondered if the urge to kill humans would return. Vampire blood was infinitely better, her body didn't want to return to weaker prey. They were undeniably rare though, she could hunt an area to extinction rather fast. There was something out there tonight though, something growing closer. Food. She could feel it strongly, much more so than the moustache man. This was not a tingle in her spine, it was a torrent. There could be a problem in her future, but it was not tonight. Tonight her prey was coming right to her. She waited under the bleachers of an old ballpark, waited until he came. He was cute. Swarthy, but thin, he had well-groomed dark hair and dark eyes, he looked European, a Frenchman. She emerged from hiding as he passed by her, he seemed almost to be looking for her, but his senses were not as keen. She stalked him, playing with her food.
In the darkness of the crypt, a thing stirred.
A thing old and thin, little more than bone and dust.
A predator of predators who had hunted their prey to near extinction,
one who long ago laid down to die.
“Come to me,” it whispered, its voice barely audible above the low ghost of wind that passed through the dark chamber deep below Paris.
“Annette, sister, come to me.”
End, Part VII,
Le Prédateur Annette
Dans le Sepulcre du Roi
2019 Halloween Special
The thing lay half awake in the darkness. Around it was utter stillness, silence, as it had been for longer than the thing could understand. Half-formed thoughts had surfaced from time to time over the centuries, dream images, memories. Once it had smelled strange aromas, once it had leapt up in sudden agony, only to settle again for another hundred years, or perhaps more. It was impossible to tell. For the most part, though, it was very comfortable. The stillness was good, the quiet was God.
Of late, however, it had been restless. A pain had been growing in its mind, a pain named Annette. The needs of the body were returning too, waking up whether or not their master desired wakefulness. Hunger and passion, those two were foremost, but other less pleasant sensations were rising as well. Its heart was trying to beat, forcefully lurching inside the ruined dust and bone of its skeleton. And its eyes, they stung, as though they could return from the long-since rotten memory of death. If the darkness were to offer something to see, the thing might enjoy that, but there was nothing, it could not be sure of the pain's honesty.
That which was waking the thing was pure, a light in its mind. Out there in the world of rushing and thinking, there was another thing, a young, supple, woman thing. A thing with hate, and fear inside of it. A thing with hunger like that which belonged to... Zosimus. Zosimus. A name. The thinker's name. "Yes," came the thought. "Yes, I am Zosimus."
And out there in the bright world of crawling things, there was Annette. She was sharp in the mind of Zosimus. She was beautiful. And she was losing control. She needed help. She needed Zosimus.
The thing stirred, with intent, for the first time in memory. An arm moved, shuddered, and lay still again. An arm, a bone, little more. Zosimus was aware of its condition, and its condition was death. But death was a thing it had chosen, and now it could choose again, to be otherwise. To be pain, and motion, to be thinking. Zosimus moved again, its head lolling to the side. The stone beneath it was hard and dirty. Zosimus felt the dirt grind against its skull. It. it. Her. Her skull. Her her. Zosimus was a she-thing. She felt a breath come unbidden, and her lungs ached. That they were there at all surprised her, but their condition was death, they were dry, ancient, paper-thin bags of dust. The breath was pain, and Zosimus revelled in the pain for an age. She twitched, and moved, and lolled her head back and forth for long, and long, and long.
Finally, Zosimus could think again. The pain receded enough for that. And she thought hard. She thought at the thing out there that was waking her up. The Annette thing. She used the voice of a man, deep and strong, an authority. She thought what the thing out there needed to hear, the simple, urgent, truth. “Run, little Goddess. Run away. Matwau is an enemy. Sebastian is a fool.” And then she thought that which she needed the thing out there to do. "Run, and find me, sister. Run away." She paused. The pain was growing again, her mind was fragmenting. “Silently you must yearn for Sebastian, a secret you keep even from yourself, he is your sire and master. Your destined lover and king. He is also a fool. You must run from him and seek me out, you must be free.”
“Who is Matwau?” Annette asked a whisper in the darkness next to Zosimus.
“Death and despair is Matwau. Run, and find me, little Goddess," Zosimus urged. She was losing herself, slipping away. The darkness wanted her and begged for her, but the pain was louder, and it grew too.
“I can’t see you,” Annette's delicious voice caressed her mind.
Zosimus gave Annette some of her darkness, kissing her with the loneliness of the sepulchre, and with the ember passion of her nearly forgotten soul.
Pain came again, the spine was racked with shaking agony, and Zosimus fell into the pain, and forgot. She forgot Annette and the others, Those she once knew. The bright things faded and the pain grew.
Time passed, though Zosimus knew not how much. Other thoughts came and went, brief and painful thoughts, naked boys writhing in tides of blood. Men and women crying from above them, wringing their hands, heaving in anguish. There was fire, and there was smoke, there was violence and there were storms. The dreams also brought her Annette. She stood bathed in moonlight, a jewel upon her brow. "Artemis," Zosimus breathed in the dark. Her lungs were still full of dust, but the word came. Annette/Artemis calmed the storms, her magic soothed the people. The children stopped struggling in the lake of blood and floated gently. Peace flowed from her like nothing Zosimus could fathom.
The dream faded.
The night air was cool, and a light wind blew through the unmowed and yellowing grass of the baseball field where two people walked slowly, hunting one another in silence. Above the two darkling dancers, the stars reeled in infinite beauty and infinite power.
Annette followed the strange man as he walked around the ballpark. Her body was hungry, but her mind was too. The man was interesting, he moved like a mortal, smelled like a vampire, and felt familiar. There was something about him that drew her, beyond the ravenous churning of her stomach. She knew he wasn't aware of her, but he kept stopping, checking his flank, peering into shadows. He knew someone was there, and he was looking for someone. Annette couldn't shake the feeling that it was her he was looking for. One of Dr. Matwau's goons, she imagined. A hunter. If he was, he wasn't very subtle about it.
After the game had gone on for an appropriately uncomfortable amount of time, she rushed out from behind a concession stand to the pitcher's mound, deliberately allowing him to see her. He seemed unsurprised, turning casually and strolling toward her. Hands in pockets, a saunter in his step. Whoever he was, he held no fear of her. That meant one of two things. One, he had no idea what had happened to the last vampire she met. Two, he did know, yet was not the least bit afraid.
He stopped at the edge of the dirt patch and smiled broadly. His thin lips were roguishly attractive, but his eyes were cold. The eyes of a predator. "Well?" she asked.
“Annette,” he said. “My name is Sebastian.”
Sebastian. She hadn't expected that, the voice in her head had called Sebastian a fool, and Matwau had laid the blame for her vampirism at his feet. He was her unholy father, her maker, her sire. She stopped herself from reacting and held the moment.
“I am he who killed you,” Sebastian confessed. “I've been looking forward to meeting you, but Joe has said some things that worry me considerably. I sought you out regardless, I feel like we're connected. I hope you feel it too, I imagine you have questions either way, I can answer them.”
Annette remained immobile. She might have been a statue. Inside, she churned. Her stomach rolled, her blood boiled and her mind spun. She wanted to kill him, to fuck him, to slap him, to hold his head in a toilet while she screamed obscenities. Instead, she stood paralyzed and studied him. Every pore, every hair, she saw it all without moving so much as her eyes.
"Well, I don't blame you for being angry," he smiled gently and crept his eyes over her body. The gaze was analytical more than sexual like he was gauging her physical state. Judging her muscle and bone. "My own sire was a woman named Niobe Valerius. I saw her recently, and she gave me some perspective. To me, she is, and will likely always be, a formal superior. When I see her, it's like reporting to an employer. Maybe one you sleep with, or eat with, but still, there is a separation between us, and an inherent respect. I don't know if that's the right dynamic for us, but I hope you can understand that I am here to guide you and protect you, should you need it."
"Protect?" Annette said the word was poison on her tongue. "You think I should respect you."
Sebastian felt a growing unease. Annette looked like someone on bad acid, her pupils were dilated to extremes, and her body language was beyond frigid. She stared in blank fascination. Sebastian was used to unusual people, vampires were often dramatic or grotesque, but Annette was unnerving him. "I am your sire," he ventured. "It is natural that we should be allies. Not by needs friends, I understand if you are angry, but surely you feel the bond between us."
"Bond," she said. Annette's voice was nearly as ghastly as her appearance. "Yes." She paused for a heartbeat and cocked her head. "Yes, we are bound, aren't we? I think I've dreamed of you."
“I have dreamed of you as well,” Sebastian said.
Annette moved like lightning. Sebastian was somewhat experienced, but vampires very rarely attacked one another, there was little that could be done to prepare for such an attack. Her hands were around his throat in a split second, and her knee hammered into his groin. Sebastian fell backwards with her on top. They hit the grass hard, and he felt his head bounce on the soil. Had he been mortal, he might be unconscious. Instinct offered him a rolling counterattack, but he forced instinct away. "Annette," he gasped. "We do not need to fight." His testicles ached loudly, a weakness of men regardless of vampirism. He tried not to let it show.
“What if I want to?” she whispered in his ear. “What if I hate you?” Her closeness was deliberately uncomfortable, she was smelling him, clutching his arms.
“You have killed our kind before,” Sebastian said, wondering at her uncommon strength. “Their names were David and Stewart. Joe told me.”
"Joe," she said and drew back a little to look him in the eye again. "Matwau."
“Yes, doctor Matwau,” Sebastian said. “Did he do something to you? You can tell me, I know he is cruel sometimes.”
“But you gave me to him,” she said. “You left me for him.”
He pushed gently, and she gave, moving back to crouch by his feet. “I did not expect you to rise,” he said. “By the time I knew you existed in this state, I was in Ireland.”
"You killed me," she said. "Whoever I was, she is dead. I remember things from her life, people, ideas and feelings, but they are not mine. You killed her."
“And gave you life,” Sebastian gently offered.
“I want you to leave Sebastian,” she said. “And stop dreaming of me. I reject you.”
Sebastian looked wounded. Annette felt a surge of pride in herself, and fascination with her ability to reject this strange and alluring man. She had spoken of remembering mortality, it was true, she did, and she remembered longing for such a creature. She remembered envy and self-loathing, and all those things which the living experience when they desire something beyond reach. She remembered them and was not beyond them even now. Feelings like that had not surfaced since her reawakening, but she knew they could. It was like her soul was just out of reach, in a dark corner behind her conscious mind. Sebastian flickered something important on and off inside of her. But it was something she could choose.
“Annette, you need me, you need guidance,” Sebastian pleaded.
“I need nothing from you,” Annette said flatly. “Except for you to leave me alone, forever.”
“I am not Matwau,” Sebastian tried to explain. “He and I have little connection, whatever he did...”
"I don't blame you," Annette said. "Fuck you, I absolve you. Is that what you need? Are you that moping and tragic vampire from all bad teenage poetry?" Annette raised her voice to a yell. "I hereby absolve Sebastian of all wrongdoing!" Her shout echoed across the ballpark. Nothing responded except the ever-present breeze, which ignored them as it went about its business of blowing orange and yellow late-season leaves across the dying grass. "I absolve him of my death!" she added. "I absolve him of his bloodshed! I absolve him of his nature! I absolve him for what God did to him! For what the Devil did to him! I absolve him for whatever the fuck he feels bad about!" She staggered forward and doubled over, almost retching suddenly as she let out her emotion. "I absolve you," she said through her staggered breath. "Is that what you want? Am I your angel? Your deliverance? Is that what you need from me?"
“Annette,” Sebastian said, touching her shoulders. “Stop.”
She twisted both his arms back in a lashing rage and kicked at his torso. They reeled away from one another with the push of her powerful legs. Both landed hard on their back, and both were up again in a second. Annette turned and walked three steps in a drunken weave. "Sebastian," she said, her voice cracking. "I hate you. I always will. Leave me alone. That's all you can do for me now."
“You don't even know me,” he said.
“I know you,” she said, calm flooding her voice. “I know you better than anyone. I can feel you, I can feel your mind touching mine. I can smell your intensity, your intentions. Like a river of sensations I have never known before. I know you, and I hate you, and I reject you.”
“What will you do?” Sebastian asked.
She half-turned and blinked slowly at him. Her eyes were wet and heavy, Sebastian felt a powerful love rush through him and despaired that she did not feel the same. "What I do now is none of your business,” she said.
Sebastian studied her face, looking for any signal of doubt, but there was none. Her truth was spoken. "So be it," he said. "For today, and as long as you like. But we are long-lived things, Annette. Someday I hope we cross paths again."
“I have someone to see,” Annette said. “I hear a voice. I hear someone deeper than you dreaming. I hear them calling.”
Sebastian tilted his head at her cryptic statement. “Joe?” he asked.
Annette smiled crookedly, one elongated canine bared. “Joe? Doctor Matwau and I will have to see to our disagreement, but not today. Tell him that while he hunts me, I hunt him. Tell him that I look forward to tearing the veins from his corpse with my fingers and teeth. Tell him I am an angel, tell him I am his angel will you?”
Sebastian felt a creeping up his spine. “I will,” he said.
Annette fled, faster than a vampire of her age should have been capable of moving. Much faster. Sebastian had seen elders move that fast, but not often. He wondered sharply once more what exactly she was. She was not normal, not a vampire, not a ghoul, and certainly not an angel.
Zosimus woke from a dream of autumn leaves and felt the well of anger and boiling hate inside Annette, so distant, so raw. She raised an arm tenderly and felt dust stir and fall inside her darkness. The arm obeyed her reluctantly, but it obeyed. Zosimus was a moving thing. An alive thing. The peace of death was no more, now she would feel and be. She rolled slowly onto her side, her bones clattering on smooth dusty stone. The dust was of her, it was skin and hair and organs that she had long since abandoned. Such things could grow anew. Such things mattered little. The memory of beauty and grace could become a reality again, with blood and patience.
Zosimus slowly pushed herself to sit up. In the cool dark chamber, every stir and shift was thrilling. A tremendous pain circled through her, coming like waves crashing against a rocky shore. The pain was exquisite, it was enthralling. It was something unique and sweet in its utter dominance of her awareness.
Zosimus felt her feet touch the floor of her resting place. The quiet sepulchrum around her gave her a scent of still, musty air, and Zosimus realized that she was breathing, though air whistled through a hundred holes in her ruined lungs. She stepped forward and fell as her left leg gave out. The impact was hard, and she lay for some time before stirring again. Standing a second time was much harder, and the agony of pain filled her as she did so, but she managed. Another step, shaky, but successful. Another step, and she reached out to what she knew would be waiting for her hand, a table laid eons ago by her acolytes. They had given her three things, a wax-sealed jar of honey, an oil lamp, and a fire striker. Zosimus took the striker and worked it for a while, her bony fingers scraping on the flint, failing, again and again, to ignite the ancient oil inside the lamp. Finally, a rush of heat and light. Zosimus discovered her eyes with yet more searing pain. They rebelled against the light, ferociously begging her to close them tight, but she had yet no eyelids to perform this deed. Dry and open, they saw, and what they saw was clear. Her sepulchrum made of human bone, laid like little logs in intricate joining, making walls and a high arched ceiling. Artistically placed sculls stared back at her from nooks and corners. These were her people, her acolytes. She remembered their names, their faces, so long gone. Here in the grave, they had watched over her, kept her company as she slept in death. Now they would have to be without her because she was alive.
Zosimus took up the honey jar and cracked the lid open. It was difficult, even this, but she did it. Honey was not blood, but blood would not keep, honey was the only sustenance she could have in this moment, blood would have to wait. There was life in honey, and it was good, and it was pure. Even after so many years, it tasted fresh. Her dry tongue swelled at its thick touch. Her dry throat welcomed its sweetness and power. She poured it over her face and sunken skeletal breast and worked it into her desiccated flesh. The flesh responded. Her eyes stung with it, and her mind revelled in it. It was not blood, no, but it was good. Silently, she thanked her acolytes, so long dead, remembered now only by her.
The empty doorway of her tomb opened into a broader necropolis. Picking up her little lamp, Zosimus made her way slowly out into the city of the dead. It would take her some time to reach the old stair and ascend to the sewers of Rome. She hoped that it would be possible, the old doors may be sealed, she knew. But she would find a way. Annette was coming, but she would be some time in arriving. Before her meeting, Zosimus would find blood and clothing, she would seek the memory of beauty. The city above called to her, the minds and flesh of the living beckoned her and the taste of their beating blood urged her onward.
“I come,” she said in the language of Annette. Her voice was raspy and thin, even with the honey to ease it, but she enjoyed the sound of it in the darkness. “I come to you my child, my child, come to me.”
Gabin Achille lay on his back on the grave of an Australian poet in the Cimitero Acattolico, in Rome. Gorgeous old tombstones and statuary surrounded him in natural peace and drew him to contemplate his mortality. He had been homeless for three days now, and he missed home, but home was impossible. He was a half Welsh, half French bastard and his mother had no love or time for him anymore. His travels in Rome had been optimistic, but doomed, even from the day he left France he had known it would come to this, his last friend had cast him out. His last dollar was spent on wine. His last moment on Earth was approaching. Andrew took the revolver from his coat pocket and laid it on his lap. There were few places in his experience as perfect as this green, lush graveyard. It was solemn and beautiful, heavy with life, and yet a place of the dead. Shelly and Keats were interred here, alongside nobles and soldiers from the ancient world and the relatively modern.
The gun was heavy, ever since he stole it from his friend Richard he had been amazed by its weight, by the power of it, even unloaded. It knew what it was, and it knew what he meant for it. It wanted that too. He chambered a single round, he had gotten this far three times already, but birds kept singing and voices kept rising in the nearby streets. He wept openly for himself. For a boy the world ignored.
Gabin raised the gun to his temple and prayed one last time, to whom he knew not. He hated the idea of God that people had tried to feed him, but he knew there was something out there, he wanted to believe it anyway. Whatever came next for him, he wanted the universe to know he had tried to live. That he had tried to make it in man's world.
A soft sound disturbed him, and he dropped the gun to his lap again and sobbed loudly. Always something disturbed him, always. He turned his head, expecting to see some late-night visitor to the graveyard, an American tourist or a deviant teenager in black clothes trying to summon the ghost of Keats.
His mind did not understand at first. He thought it might be a very old woman, naked and lost, senile. It wasn't, or at least, it wasn't just that. The thing was dead, it stood there, holding fire in its skeletal hand, and yet it was dead. Rotted, gone, dust and bone. The dead woman turned to him and looked with staring bulbous eyes through his soul.
Gabin screamed and raised his gun. He yanked the trigger madly and felt the gun betray him with a dull thunk. He didn't know what had gone wrong, but it had gone very wrong. The useless weapon was jammed.
The dead thing walked toward him, jerking forward like a creature from an old American B-movie. The light in its hand flickered and fell dark. A stench rose from the thing, sweet and potent, like honey and old books.
Gabin staggered to his feet and nearly managed to flee, but the thing was suddenly upon him, with a rush of inhuman speed and force. Its teeth flashed and it lunged.
Gabin wished for life. Gabin prayed for life. Now, at this moment he understood what he was losing, and he understood the horror of death. The fundamental emptiness and wrongness of allowing oneself to fade from the light.
It was far too late, that thought. If he had thought it a day sooner, a week, a month, but he had come to this graveyard to die, and the graveyard had accepted his offer.
End. Part VIII
Dans le Sepulcre du Roi
Les Morts Lubriques.
2020 Halloween special.
Zosimus writhed in ecstasy. The mortal trembled his last in her embrace and collapsed. The stench of his piss and bile rose to her senses, and she threw his remains away. Her body was still weak, barely strong enough to hold onto a thrashing mortal. Compared to her old self, the dusty flesh hanging on her bones was barely a shadow.
Pain wracked through her, sharp and intense. It grew as the blood filled her. Her nerves slowly awakened, one by one, and her mind swelled. She needed far more blood. And she could smell it in the wind. Rome flourished as it always had. Mortal life surrounded the old non-catholic cemetery. She stopped to lean on a Cyprus tree and examine her surroundings. The graveyard was cluttered, far more crypts and stones littered the grounds than had existed when she went into the earth. It was a proper necropolis now. Greenery bloomed in every crack and walkway, the trees were heavy with life, and dew. She could see the Aurelian walls of Rome and several beautiful sculptures of Christian angels, to Zosimus the angels were pale mockeries of the Roman Gods, renamed and reduced. She appreciated the care shown to the dead but sneered at the religious imagery.
Her lip hurt, it had cracked when she expressed a little emotion. She gingerly touched her face and felt the papery texture of her skin, both finger and lip. She knew how ugly she was. It would take some time to invigorate herself again, and a lot of blood.
Her patience removed, she swiftly moved to the old Roman gates of the cemetery and looked out onto a close alley. Ivy-draped walls of plastered brick greeted her on the opposite shore of the road, yellow paint broken away in years gone by telling a story of decline.
Strange carriages littered the sides of the empty alley. Colourful, mechanical things made of steel and glass. She was aware of the progression of mankind, in a remote way, through the thoughts and feelings of her children, but it was another thing to see the modern world's creations.
She walked slowly around a long black car, wondering at its beauty and complexity. She was so distracted that she almost missed a man walking down the side of the road. He wore a heavy coat and a scarf, and he smoked. The air around him was filled with the strong musty aroma of cheap tobacco, it preceded him and introduced his taste. Zosimus followed him a few steps before he noticed her shuffling sound, and he turned. The look on his face told her again how ugly she was. It was almost funny, he dropped his cigarette and put up his hands, half defensive, half offering support. His confusion and fear were tangible.
Zosimus wrapped herself around his body and drove her hard teeth into his neck. The scarf attempted to thwart her effort, but she bit through the soft material. Blood rose quickly to meet her mouth, hot and alive, it surged down her throat and into her belly, where vampire's anatomy would redirect it into her bloodstream.
The man struggled, almost escaped, and they both fell to the cold ground. Zosimus felt her skin tear from her knee where it impacted the cement walk. She felt the motion of the man beneath her, moving like a lover. She pulled the scarf away and bit again, deeper and more violent. He died swiftly, and she felt stronger, fuller. She pulled off the ancient sheet she wore and cast it away, filthy as it was with the ruined memories of her decay. The man's clothes were new, rich, and clean, aside from a few errant drops of lost blood. She stripped his corpse and stole his fine garments, examining them with curious eyes and fingers as she did. His shoes were a poor fit, and she abandoned them, but otherwise, his attire would suit her needs.
She needed more blood yet, still, her body was weak, still she hungered. Her skin was fuller perhaps, a little less grey, but still, it was the skin of a long-dead thing. Inside, she felt growth. Tendons grew and stretched, muscle fibre wove itself over bone.
Zosimus walked, somewhat more swiftly now, toward the greatest throng of life her senses could detect. A small party, she guessed by the gentle echoes in the street, perhaps a block away. It would not do to stride into a crowd, but around the edges of such a gathering, there was always prey. She left the alley and emerged onto a modern street. It was wide enough to allow the passage of many cars, and people. Trees lined it in both directions. She could see the pyramid of Cestus to her left, a familiar landmark in a world so changed as to be nearly unrecognizable. She recalled its construction for the Legate of Syria Gaius Cestius Gallus. A moment ago, an eternity gone by. Irrelevant now.
The gathering was on a rooftop, perfect for her needs. All she needed to do was wait and sooner or later a loner would depart, or perhaps a young couple, filled with desire and spirits.
Her dream was made real only a few minutes later, a young couple emerged from the building and stepped gaily into the street, laughing and kissing, ignoring the world around them. A boy and a girl, hardly more than children. Both were dark and beautiful, with curled black hair and brown eyes.
Zosimus grasped at the girl and tore her throat with a wicked fingernail, blood streamed out and the girl gasped silently. Zosimus drank.
The boy was agape, terror wracked him, he shouted something stupid and low, a curse word, she knew, in Greek. She dropped the girl, still clinging to life, and she leapt upon the boy, eating his tender flesh away from his neck, opening him fully to her passions. She bathed in his life, it soaked her new clothes her hair and her face. His death served her well. Turning back to the girl, she knew she looked like a thing of terror, death incarnate. She sought fear in the girl's eyes and found it. She fed off this as much as the blood. She adored the girl's mind and took from it a thousand memories. Then, like the others, the girl gave way to the fate of all living things.
Zosimus was not full yet, but gazing upon her hands, she knew she was at least beginning to fill out. Two or three more and she might look human. They would be along soon enough, she knew. She licked the dead, cleaning them of blood until the next meal introduced itself to her.
Annette stood silently under the eves of a store. The window dressing was filled with garish Halloween decor. The street lights glowed soft yellow light down on wet pavement. A rain had begun, slow and slight. The kind of rain no one bothers to hide from if they even notice it, but it was persistent, and the world was softening to it.
Annette lit a cigarette, she had stolen both the smoke and the lighter from a potted plant to her left, forgotten by the owner, likely on a break from work. The taste surprised Annette, she remembered smoking from her previous life, it was an occasional habit, partaken only at parties and the like, but one she had always worried could become regular rather easily. This cigarette had depth that no other had ever possessed, the stale tobacco smoke drew into her lungs and informed her dominantly that it did not belong there. She coughed and reeled, the nicotine sending her stomach into upset.
Casting the vile thing away, she swore. “Fuck, shit. What the hell?”
Another betrayal of comfort. A vampire was disadvantaged in many ways, she was learning. Her memories of life were dim, but they possessed comfort. She missed one of her sweaters all of a sudden, sitting cozy and happy cuddled up to a friend, watching television. The thought passed. It was like looking at a painting of a memory, beautiful perhaps, but irrelevant.
Somewhere out there, the voice was calling to her again. Strong and rhythmic, a heartbeat, a song, a warning, a lure. The owner was far away, Annette knew that she could sense it just as she could sense Sebastian.
He was not far away, playing mortal at a bar, sitting among them, even talking to them. She could just barely see him from where she stood, his shoulder and hair visible around a mortal woman who was drinking with friends. To Annette, mortals were losing all meaning. They were the prey of her prey, like lettuce to a tiger. She remembered Oliver and wanted more. Sebastian didn't seem like prey though, perhaps it was their bond, but he was different. She didn't want to kill him anymore, at least not until she knew him better. Despite her words to him, her dismissal and brashness, she was curious. Right now, she was just hoping he would lead her to other vampires, perhaps even Matwau. Running wasn't working, vampires had too many skills at their disposal for hunting and Matwau commanded many vampires it seemed. For now, she was content to wait. The hunger inside her was low, but growing.
“Can you feel me too Sebastian?” she wondered aloud. “Do you know I'm watching you? Can you hear me?” She hated him, she wanted him. She wanted him to teach her, to guide her, she wanted him to leave her the hell alone, she wanted him dead, she wanted to watch him.
He stood and paid for whatever he was drinking, Annette wanted to know that too. He walked out, and stood by the curb, pulling out a cell phone and punching in a number. The conversation was brief, and she could not hear a single word of it. He hung up and looked at the sky. Gazing a moment at the stars. Then he vanished as if by magic, he simply wasn't there anymore.
Annette stepped out into the rain and crossed the street, approaching the point of his vanishing. She arrived and stood where he had stood, and she looked at the empty pavement. "What can you teach me?" she wondered. "What the hell are we?"
Cian Walsh hung up the phone. He was in a small pub in Dublin, on Bachelor's Walk adjacent to the river Liffey. The miracle of a pay phone still adorned the pub's entryway, a thing vanishing from the world of man at a pace far faster than it had taken them to arrive. Cian hated cell phones, but he was starting to think they were unavoidable. It had taken him half an hour to find this infernal machine. He was a tall, rough-looking man, but handsome. He had the red hair and light green eyes that defined the Irish people around the world, even though most Irish had dark hair.
“Well boys, fuck it,” he said to his three stooges, “we're goin' to the new world.”
The first and oldest of his gang was David, a henchman from way back, maybe a hundred and sixty years. He was dark-haired and eyed, but still Irish to the bone. The other two were relatively new, Andy, less than twenty years in his grave, and probably English-blooded, and Mick, who swore he was around in the eighties for the good old days of anarchy, but Cian thought it was bullshit. He had turned up in 2001, and Cian thought that was probably about when he had risen. He at least had the common decency to have reddish brown hair and a few leftover freckles from childhood.
“So it's an angel?” David asked.
“No fucking way,” Cian said, “but it's something like that, and I intend to have me another slice of heaven. Old crow Joe says she's surprising everyone over there and he needs real hunters.”
“Well shit, I still have wet dreams about that little English tart up in Drumalee. If we can find meat that sweet again, I'll fly to America without a plane. I'll just flap my damn arms.” He laughed, and the other goons laughed with him. Cian just smiled.
“Kristin,” Cian reminded him. “She was something else wasn't she?”
Mick and Andy hadn't been around for that event, but they had heard the story a dozen times. David liked to tell it when he was drunk, and Cian liked to listen to it.
“How'd you know to call him anyway?” David asked.
Cian lit a cigarette. "Joe's my sire, I know when he needs something from me." The smell of old blood and brandy curled up from the thick smoke he blew out. Tobacco soaked in rich flavour. He had fought like hell to find a way to smoke again after being turned, he liked to tell. The trick was to roll the tobacco in blood and let it saturate the leaf, then add in the brandy and let it all dry again. The resulting material could fill a vampire's senses in the most wonderful ways. Not like the sickening lung-wrenching flavour of the raw herb.
"How the hell are we getting to America?" Mick asked. "We can't exactly go on Virgin Airlines, can we? Sunup comes and we all catch fire in the damn plane cabin, that'd make the news."
David hit Cian on the shoulder. “We took ship the last time, remember Cian?”
“Yeah, that was a fucking mess,” Cian said. They laughed together, and Cian shook David's arm at the elbow. “Remember that fucker in the little sailor outfit?”
“Good enough then, good enough now, let's slip aboard something headed there,” David said.
“Not as fucking easy now,” Cain said. “But I know a guy might smuggle us for a price. We all chip in, it's a game.”
“Who the fuck you know I don't?” David asked.
“Jim, remember Jim? Dock worker, always has that stupid hat?”
“Yeah, right, Jimmy. Sure,” David agreed. “He's mobbed up.”
“I know fucking Jimmy,” Andy added, “he can get us on a fishing job or some shit yeah, but America?”
“He'll have a line on it,” Cian said. “Or a line on someone that does. Besides, travel broadens the mind, and your mind could use it eh Andy?” He cuffed the goon upside his head playfully, and they all laughed again. “We've us a skirt to chase lads.”
“Another fucking angel,” David said eagerly.
"Maybe, maybe not, but not your average long-tooth," Cian said. "I want a bite or ten, that I'll tell you, don't care if I have to go to fucking darkest Africa or someplace. I want, I take."
“Well I want something a little more urgently,” Mick said. “I'm hungry now Cian.”
“Drinks on me tonight boys.” Cian smiled. “This little pub is full of blood and tears, and I've a mind to make both flow freely tonight. Let's bang some heads together.”
They opened the door separating the lobby from the pub, and went in, loudly hollering and cheering as they did. The morning news would speak of a lethal bar fight, in which two men were killed and two more were missing and wanted for questioning. Those two bodies would turn up five nights later downriver, weighted and stripped. A talented coroner might note the odd exsanguination on all four bodies, but they did not receive the ministrations of a talented coroner, they received the gentle hand of their killer. Cian and Jimmy both worked as night shift morgue officials for the city of Dublin. A long tradition of vampires in such work preceded them. It was an important career to protect the clan and the entire species.
Zosimus had found her way into a cozy bar. She had killed and drunk seven people in the last few hours, but thirst still lingered. Her face and hands were now whole enough to pass in decent society, though leathery and greyish. She wore the clothes of her last victim, a green wool coat, black slacks and a sweater. The sweater had a picture of a pumpkin on it, bright orange and ripe. Zosimus had seen many such decorations around since emerging and was starting to wonder if it was a religious image of some kind. The city seemed to be lightly celebrating some kind of morbid holiday, a day of celebrating death. According to a tacky banner over the bar, it was called Halloween.
Whatever the excuse, mortals were flocking to public houses. The crop was ripe. She sat for a moment in silence, watching the hot young flesh move around her. Singling one out was simple, there was a beautiful man at the bar, a thing of sex and life. Tall and strong, a little heavy set but firm. His hair was short but wavy, dark and pretty.
She gently stood and went to sit on the stool next to him. He noticed her immediately, but he did not favour her still-healing skin. He sneered and turned away.
“Look at me,” she said.
He turned again and looked at her, wariness, or weariness in his steel grey eyes. “American?” he asked, his accent thick and rich.
Zosimus had taken modern language from the mind of her distant Annette. English seemed as natural to her as the old tongues. She accepted that she must appear to be a traveller from Annette's America. “Yes,” she lied. “And I am in need of some help.”
“Fuck off,” he said brutishly, and stood to leave.
She grabbed his arm and forced his attention. “Sit down,” she commended.
He sat, confused but accepting. She had him now, her power over weak minds was absolute. "You will help me," she said.
“Okay,” he blinked away his stupor. “Okay yes, What can I do?”
“Take me home,” she ordered.
"I'll call for an Uber," he said and pulled a device from his pocket.
The object was completely foreign to Zosimus, but she understood that he was helping. She watched him play with it, then talk into it. It was a marvel, she intended to study it. Glancing around the crowded pub, she saw many people who had similar devices. It was a common tool of the new world.
“He'll be outside in five minutes,” the man said.
“What is your name?” she asked.
“Nestor,” he answered. “Nestor Usiris.”
“Osiris,” she said. “How fitting. Are you a family man Osiris?”
“I have a brother that lives in the flat with me,” he said. “He'll be asleep.”
"Good," she said. She would kill one and keep the other. A servant would be useful in the coming days. She had to reach Annette. The child was not coming to her, she knew that. Although she also knew Annette was not immune to her mental siren's song. They would find one another soon. Hopefully, before death found Annette. Zosimus felt the spiders of fate weaving. Annette would save her, Annette would restore the true power of the Vampire to the world, or Annette would die. Like a baby turtle emerging from the sand, she would reach the sea, or be slaughtered by predators. She was the future of their species. Zosimus was the past. The two had to become one, as Zosimus had become one with her tutor so long ago. Ten thousand years before she had entered the tomb under the cemetery. Annette was one in a trillion. Only she could take what Zosimus had to give. If she died before they met, then it might be another twenty thousand years until another was born. And Zosimus knew she would not last that long. Not without Annette's magic.
“He's here,” Nestor Usiris said, looking at his strange little glowing device.
“I want to fuck you. Take me home,” Zosimus said. “Tomorrow you will arrange passage for me to America.”
“Okay,” he said. “I can do that from the car, New York or L.A. or what?”
“Whichever is closer,” she said. Zosimus let him lead her outside to the waiting carriage.
She did not wait for them to arrive at his home, she unzipped his pants as the Uber driver piloted the car in silence. His presence was not unwelcome, and his interest was apparent. He glanced again and again through the beautiful little mirror set in the roof, and over his shoulder. Watching their sex as much or more than he did the road.
Nestor Usiris was eager and strong. It was awkward in the little seats, but they managed well. The passing city lights flashed across his face and skin and shadows rose and fell with his body. His seed filled her, and she took it as she took all things, feeding from it through her vagina just as her mouth could feed on blood. This was life in its purest form, and most powerful. She could, if she wanted, live off nothing but a man's seed. But there was so precious little of it, and it took so much work to farm. As it filled her, she smiled. "You are a bull," she said.
“We're almost there,” the driver told them.
Zosimus straightened up and adjusted her clothing. “You will join us for a drink,” she told the driver.
“Yesss,” he said. “I'd like that.”
Now she would have two more feedings tonight, and sex again, yes, Nestor would be able to fulfill her needs soon. He was virile. Blood, death, sex. Until she had Annette, those things would entertain her.
Annette sighed in passion, her fingers explored her body with desperate lust.
A vampire's senses were strong, even in sex.
The image of a strange pale woman dominated her thoughts.
Zosimus, the dream told her. Beautiful and wise.
Zosimus, Goddess and Demon.
Annette curled up in orgasmic spasms, laughing and crying out.
“I'll wait for you,” she whispered into the darkness.
End. Part IX
Les Morts Lubriques.
Chasse à la Lumière.
2021 Halloween special.
Cian stood on the prow of the little ship and looked out over the New York City skyline with tremendous interest. He had travelled to the new world once before, almost thirty years ago now. He had stayed in New York with Joe Matwau, the vampire who had turned him. Joe had taken him around the city and shown him a pretty good time actually, but they had been there for a reason. The Irish gangs in the city were causing Joe trouble and he needed a liaison. Cian and David had sorted all that out with a little violence, a little money, and a little charm. Since then, they hadn't spoken more than a few times on the phone, but when Joe had summoned him, Cian had felt it as strongly as if they had been in constant contact. The old bonds of blood didn't weaken with age, quite the opposite it seemed.
“Whaddya figure?” David asked, coming up behind him.
“He's not in the city,” Cian said. “Fuckwad wants us to come to him.”
“Boston right?” David asked.
“Yeah, or fucked if I know. We'll have to get a car, sort of play it by feel.”
David lit a cigarette with some difficulty in the sea wind. “It's been eight fucking days, you're sure he still needs us?”
“Nine days,” Cian corrected him. “And yeah, he's like a lighthouse in my brain. Never pulled this shit before, I don't know why he cares this fucking much. Don't know why he's having so much trouble either. Some newborn little vamp run off, master like him should have had her on his operating table again in an hour or two.”
“So she's got game,” David said, “makes it all more fun. I hope she puts us through some fucking paces you know? We never get to do this shit.”
Cian laughed and nodded. “Here's to that,” he said.
David took a long drag of his cigarette and handed it to Cian. "Let's kill that dipshit in the cockpit or whatever you call it, we've almost fucking landed."
Cian took a drag and nodded. "You got it, man, I'm fucking starved. I haven't gone this long since we were stuck in Avebury with Kenny."
“That little punk and his bullshit church or whatever paid well enough but that was pure hell,” David agreed. “We're staying here for a year at least if I have a say.”
Cian nodded. “Ireland will always be home, but yeah, Fuck it, let's see what Mexico's like. I hear the vamps there run the place.”
“That fucking Tarantino movie will be a kid's show compared to what I will do to the place.”
“Dusk till Dawn?” Cian said. “No way, that was legendary. Let's go kill this prick.” He threw the cigarette butt into the water and turned to walk into the ship's main cabin.
They went in together and Cian said hello to their host, Jimmy Carlin. Jimmy was a sandy-haired and beefy young man who had inherited his father's fishing company a few years back and turned it into a drug smuggling operation. When vampires wanted to travel, their unique needs demanded unique methods. Jimmy had fit their bill perfectly. "Howdy James," Cian said in his best western drawl. "We're in America now, let's party like Americans yeah?"
"Fuck yeah," Dave said and brought out a little pouch of white powder. "Nose up Jimmy, it's your birthday!"
"Hell yeah!" Jimmy took the baggy and removed some cocaine with his finger, which he promptly snorted. He reeled and hooted loudly. "Thanks, man."
“Harbour up there?” Cian said.
“Yeah, that's it,” Jimmy agreed, pointing out the forward window to a large marina dock. “I know the guy who runs this port, he's good.”
"Cool," Cian said. "You were the man, Jim, who got us here fast and smooth. If you were an Uber I'd give you five stars."
“Since I'm not, I'll take the money,” Jimmy said with a laugh. He snorted another pinch of cocaine.
Cian shrugged. "Naw, the thing is, decided to keep it." He grabbed Jimmy by the hair and pulled his head back with a sharp snap. Dave was already on him, teeth bared. The two vampires devoured Jimmy's neck, ripping it open and burying their faces deep into his flesh.
Their two compatriots Mick and Andy stepped in behind them. They knew their place on the food chain, and waited until Cian and Dave had their fill, then lapped up the scraps. There would be a feast soon enough, they all knew. Once ashore, they would all take at least two victims to be satiated.
It had been ten days since Annette had seen Sebastian in Salem. She had felt him nearby ever since however, day and night. When she slept, the feeling only got stronger. She was doing alright for the most part, she was hungry, but it was manageable. There were too few vampires in the world for her needs it seemed, and human prey was just unappetizing. She craved the monster, she craved the blood of the living dead.
Tonight she had finally caught the scent she had been hunting. She had found her way south to New Haven Connecticut, and had found residence on Davenport Avenue in a little house by Evergreen cemetery. It was easy enough to find, she just looked for a place that felt empty. A hard feeling to articulate, even to herself, but her new instincts were clear, the house was unused. Perhaps, she thought, it belonged to one of those companies people were always complaining about when they spoke about real estate. Some foreign powers keep it for occasional use by executives or their mistresses. It was furnished, and tidy, but dusty inside and run down a little on the outside. Whoever owned it wasn't going to be here any time soon.
She was currently on Howard Avenue, a few blocks away from the house. There was a large children's hospital across the street, but her prey was somewhere inside a little geriatric assessment centre building. She stood by the curb outside the neighbouring Chinese restaurant and waited. She knew he was feeding, and wanted him full when she struck. Whether or not he knew she was here was irrelevant. She would catch him and kill him right in front of the human staff and patients if she had to, but she didn't expect to wait long.
He emerged less than fifteen minutes after going in, his meal was quick and efficient, practised. He probably took in most of his meals here. He saw her immediately, and to her delight, didn't react as though he knew who she was. Matwau's reach was impressive but hadn't reached New Haven yet. He had close-shaved black hair, and a rugged complexion, handsome in a dark and mysterious kind of way.
The vampire walked up to her casually, sauntering with interest both sexual and immortal. She smiled and leaned seductively against the wall behind her. "Hi," she said.
“Well hello,” he responded. “Are you looking for me?” He had a light Eastern European accent.
"I guess," she said, flirting with her voice and eyes. "I sensed you in there and wanted to meet whoever it was. I'm a little lost, to be honest."
He smiled, but something in his eyes told her he was suspicious. Vampires weren't generally going to be easy to fool, she supposed. “Want to show me the way home?” she teased, carrying on the little play.
He cocked his head as though considering it. “I don't think so,” he said. “I have things to...” he didn't finish the thought, trailing off. “Oh, you're her,” he said.
So he had heard of her, she realized. “I'm just me,” she said, moving toward him.
He reacted, shifting backward to avoid her, but not fast enough, she grabbed him and dragged him bodily into the geriatric centre's parking lot. A white SUV offered enough privacy for her needs. He struggled and fought, but it was like a child thrashing in the teeth of a bear. She pushed her face into his neck and smelled him deeply, the scent of his recent victim was still on him, sweat and medicine. His scent was clean, sweet, and flowery. She dug into his neck with all the hunger and violence that had been building in her for the last ten days. He hit her again and again with both hands, strong hits, hits that would have given a human a concussion, but she barely felt them. She just held him and drank, taking in everything that he was. When she was done, she dropped him and fell back on a green mesh fence. He gaped at her, eyes wide and jaw opening and closing. He was too weak to move, but not dead. She wiped his blood off her chin and sucked it from her fingers. "What does it take to kill us?" she asked him. "If I leave you here, do you get up in a few minutes? Hours? What happens if humans find you, call an ambulance?"
“That's where Joe comes in,” a voice answered from nearby. She was not surprised to see Sebastian had appeared on the street. “He's good at cleanup.” He walked around the SUV and crouched near the still living, or un-living body of the other vampire.
She smiled at him and sighed. "Have you been stalking me all along?" she asked.
“On and off,” he answered.
“I could feel you,” she said. “I knew you were watching me.”
“I knew you knew,” Sebastian said. “You don't hunt humans,” he said.
“No, fuck no, why would I, when this is so much better?”
"I've looked for a being like you for a very long time," he said. "I've tried to create something like you for decades, but I was flailing in the dark. In the end, you were a miracle or an accident. I want to study you, to know you, to know how you are different from me, from him." He gestured to the vampire between them. "It means everything to me, to us. You could help us all understand what we are."
"What we are?" she said and laughed. "We're fucking demons. Isn't that enough? Do you have to pick at every scab?"
“I don't believe that,” he said.
“You have some kind of Vampire religion?” she asked. “Is Joe your priest?”
"He's agnostic, and a scientist. I have studied religion, sought answers in them, and found none. For a long time, I was a pagan I guess. Now, I just seek knowledge, I don't pretend to have it anymore."
“He's a very bad man,” she said.
“We all are,” Sebastian told her. “It's always been my hope that we could find a way to be better.”
The vampire between them flopped onto his belly and groaned, trying to get up. They both watched him without interfering.
“Are you going to kill him?” Sebastian finally asked.
“Why?” She shrugged. “Probably I guess, why do you care?”
“His name is Pavel,” Sebastian told her. “Last time I saw him, he owned a horse breeding ranch in Utah. That was around nineteen thirty. I liked him then, we drank a lot and sang with his ranch hands. Then we killed one. I guess the guy wasn't doing a very good job.”
"Aww, isn't that a sweet story?" Annette stuck her finger down her throat and gagged comically.
“There aren't very many of us really,” Sebastian said. “We mostly know each other, at least the older ones like me.”
Pavel was trying to drag himself to a sitting position on the door of the SUV, but he was failing.
“Will he get better?” she asked.
Sebastian nodded. “If you leave him, yes, but he'll kill half a dozen people trying to regain his strength.”
“Huh,” she said. “Do you care if I kill him?”
“I'm not sure,” he answered. “We got along once, but I wouldn't call us friends. To be honest, my only real interest right now is you.”
“Fuck it,” she said, if I let him live, maybe he'll come for me and I can have another meal a few years down the line right? It's like raising chickens.” She laughed in a sputtering cackle.
“Chickens,” Sebastian said, “who can teach you a lot.”
She studied his face for a moment, then shook her head. “If you could teach me so much, you wouldn't be looking at me for answers. Matwau wouldn't be hunting me if he was planning to educate me. Fuck that, you want to dissect my brain. I know he does.”
Sebastian nodded. “He probably does,” he admitted. “His quest for understanding is deep, and has been going on longer than I have walked the Earth.”
"You won't find it here," she said. She stood up and stretched languidly. "I feel good, really good. He was a great meal. Wanna keep following me around, or shall we leave together?"
“Sure,” Sebastian said. “Your place is nicer than mine, and Joe doesn't know about it, let's head there.”
“Is he far away?” she asked.
“He never left Boston, but he's got people looking for you. If they find you, he might come.”
“Should I really worry?” She started walking casually back toward Davenport Avenue.
Sebastian stood, "Goodbye Pavel," he said and followed after her. Pavel was already coming, he wouldn't be down long. Worst case scenario, whoever found him would mistake him for a junkie. "Yes," he answered. "You're strong, but you have no idea how powerful an elder vampire can be. Joe is very much an elder. If you want to keep defying him, you'll need help."
“Fuck off,” she said. “What kind of help? Are there like... political parties in the Vampire world?”
“No, nothing like that,” he said. “My sire Niobe is in America, she could help. If you won't go along with Joe's plans, you need someone like her.”
“Grandma!” Annette grinned like a mad person. “I don't know, I think there's someone else out there for me you know?”
“Who's that?” Sebastian asked.
She turned and looked him in the eye, walking blindly backwards, hands in her pockets. “I'm not really sure, you're not the only one I dream of though. There's someone out there calling to me, I think I'm calling to her too.”
“We only connect to our sire like that,” Sebastian said. “Could be important. Who is it?”
“I think of her as Zoe,” Annette said, furrowing her brow. “It's something like that, Zosima, Zozimas, I don't fucking know.”
Sebastian stopped. She kept walking for a moment, then turned to look at him. “What?” she asked.
“Zosimus?” He asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “You know her?”
“No,” he said. “No, and yes, we all do, but she's dead.”
“Where's this Niobe?” she asked.
“New York,” Sebastian said. “Manhattan.”
"Guess we're going to the Big Apple," she said. "Tomorrow?"
“Alright,” Sebastian said.
“BROADWAY,” she shouted, “here we come!”
They walked in silence for a while, Sebastian watched her with interest. He had been stalking her for some time, but observing up close was far more telling. Her eyes darted quickly to every new sound that entered their awareness, her head cocked and her eyes widened when it was something interesting. She was pulling in information that no human could process, he knew that all vampires did, but she was much more in tune with their supernatural side than she should be. A theory was developing in his mind, she was a vampire just like any other, not an angel, not a being of light and blessing. A vampire, but more, different. If one in every million victims of a vampire's bite became a vampire, then perhaps one in every million vampires might take on more of their curse, or disease, or whatever it was. Annette, like the not-so-pure Kristin in Ireland fifty years ago, was something like that. They had more substantial needs, as well as more raw power. Human blood simply wasn't enough for her.
Watching her, he had marveled at her restraint. She barely seemed to notice humans existed. She walked past them on the street like they were ghosts, irrelevant and immaterial. He wondered again about Kristin and wished more information was available on her case. It was odd, he decided, that Joe had been so cagey on the topic. He must have researched her exhaustively himself, yet Sebastian had learned more from James and Rachel in Ireland than from the doctor. Joe was going to be a problem, sadly, Sebastian knew it was an inevitable problem. He wondered what the outcome would be in a contest between Annette and Joe. Despite his assurance to Annette that Joe was a being of immense power, he had to admit, that so was she. Hopefully, he could keep them apart for now, and he could learn more about her.
Was it spiritual? Was it a blood disease? Sebastian had wasted so much time and energy trying to create something like Annette, for most of his unnaturally long life, he had been actively trying to create Annette, and now that he had, by accident or not, he didn't know what to do with her. She was supposed to be his salvation, his great hope of redemption for all the death he visited upon the world. But that was a thinning hope. She was a monster too, just a different kind.
Still, a monster that hunted monsters might yet be a kind of redemption. A thought came to him unbidden. “What if she can turn me into something like her?”
"Hey Ed, come here for a second," Hermes Villherd was a deckhand on a small private cargo ship belonging to an importer. They had been at sea for two days, out of Madrid Spain, and their destination was Halifax Nova Scotia. He was a rough-looking man, a born sailor. Ed Hanson, his fellow deckhand and boyfriend, was scrawny, dim, and terrible at just about everything he tried to do, but Hermes liked him. They got on well and made life easier for each other.
Ed came over to see what Hermes wanted and slipped a flask out of his pocket. "Cold tonight," he said and took a swig.
Hermes took the flask and did likewise. “Bloody cold,” he agreed. “What do you make of that?” he pointed down toward the water, where something was making a crest wave alongside the ship.
“Dolphin,” Ed said immediately. “Cool.”
“I thought so too,” Hermes said, “but I'm not sure, it surfaced for a second and I swear I thought I saw a girl. I think it's a mermaid.”
Ed laughed and punched Hermes in the shoulder. He snatched the flask back. “You've had too much,” he joked.
“For real,” Hermes said.
They both looked down at the water. “Where'd it go?” Ed asked.
“Must have dived...” Hermes said.
Ed suddenly gurgled loudly. The flask slipped from Ed's hand and clanged on the deck. Hermes looked over to see what was wrong and fell over backwards. A soaking wet and completely naked woman with skeletal features and matted black hair held Ed up in the air like a plaything. Ed was soaked in blood, it sprayed from his neck, where a ragged hole had appeared. The woman was practically showering in it, it soaked her as Hermes watched in sickened horror. "Ed?" he sputtered.
The woman threw Ed into the ocean with one hand and locked her black eyes onto Hermes. She had teeth like a wolf, sharp and cruel.
In the ship's cabin, Captain Andrew Hershfeld and his first mate Jessica Merrick were calmly watching their instruments, the radio played a haunting old jazz number by Larry Clinton called The Devil with the Devil. The black ocean rolled outside, but inside there was a rumbling peace. “Coffee?” Jessica asked.
“Yes please,” Andrew replied.
A blood-curdling scream broke their complacency, and both rose to their feet to look out the window over the deck below. Blood sprayed against the glass, and the scream died.
The steel door to the cabin tore open with hurricane force. A shape loomed in the door frame, human and yet monstrous. “Captain,” a woman's voice slipped. Zosimus stepped into the killing chamber.
Annette opened the door to her home and held it for Sebastian.
He smelled incredible, she would take him tonight, sex, and perhaps blood.
Distantly, she knew that Zosimus was feeding.
She was getting closer every day now.
She was getting stronger too.
End. Part X
Chasse à la Lumière.
Dans le Vif du Sujet.
2022 Halloween special.
Nestor Osiris stood at the shore, gazing passively at the dark sea. It was just an hour to sunrise, and he worried for his devil. He waited for her, for Zosimus. She was out there, as cold as the water, as powerful as a storm, but even he knew what sunlight did to her kind. He had arrived in New York via plane, a trip of just a few hours with a meal and a movie to pass the time. The devil he loved was taking a much longer time to arrive. When he had explained air travel to her, she had rejected it. He tried to show her a YouTube video and explain to her that it was safe, but she wanted none of it. Not out of fear, he thought, but something else that he couldn't explain. Who was he to judge? Who was he to question Lucifer's most seductive succubus? It didn't matter, she was coming, he felt it. Three days in a shitty motel in New Jersey was a paltry price for her inevitable company.
She surfaced smoothly, like a shark cresting the waves, and pulled herself up to a standing position as the water became shallow. Her black eyes fell on him immediately. “Osiris,” she said, not even a little out of breath from her journey beneath the endless brine. “Did you bring me something?”
Nestor smiled. “I have two girls in the trunk,” he pointed to a brown vintage Cadillac parked up the hill. “Car's stolen, but we should be fine with it for a few days.”
She walked past him to the car, and he hurried to keep up, jingling the keys as he jogged. “It's locked, let me open it,” he said. “There's clothes too, I bought you some nice things. Don't worry about the money.”
“Osiris, you must be handsomely rewarded,” she said. “You are an eager friend.”
“Sure,” he said, opening the trunk. Two young women lay inside, both dressed in black with heels. Cocktail waitresses from a much nicer hotel than the one he was staying in. He had caught them with a blow to the head and thrown them both into his car in less than a minute. Since then, they had woken up it seemed. He almost panicked as they launched themselves upward and tried to attack him, but Zosimus was upon them both in a breath. She held one by the throat as she devoured the other. A meek little sound emitted from the girl as she died. The other kicked, struggled, waited. But she didn't wait long.
Zosimus threw both the girls into the water. She had not wasted a drop, her face and her naked body were clean from days underwater, but her hair was a mess. Nestor walked around and opened the car's passenger door. “Let's get you somewhere warm and dry,” he offered.
She looked at the offered seat. “Teach me how to operate this vehicle,” she commanded, walking around to the driver's side and getting in, still naked.
Nestor nodded and got in the passenger side. "Put this in the little hole there and turn it forward," he said, handing her the key and pointing to the ignition.
She learned quickly, requiring little explanation of anything save for the laws of the road, which she also quickly learned to ignore.
When they arrived at his temporary home, he was worried she would find it unsuitable, but she did not seem to care about her surroundings. She showered, and used a brush to sort out her hair, then dressed in the simplest of the clothing that Nestor had arranged for her, black pants and a diabolical red silk blouse, with flats and a black jacket. Imitation elegance, but not bad for American stores. She forwent any undergarment.
“Do we have business?” Nestor asked.
"I do, your work is done." She turned and grabbed his arm, pulling him in and biting his neck, not playfully as she had done a few times before, but with severe finality. He was aware of his last squawk, similar in tone and terror to that made by the girls he had fed to her.
Zosimus dropped his corpse unceremoniously, wiped a drip of blood from her jaw with her index finger, and licked it clean. The sun was rising, she smiled and walked out into the beautiful morning. "Warm my flesh Apollo," she prayed, "and light my path."
She got into the ugly chariot that her Osiris had procured and started the engine. Ugly, but powerful. She liked driving.
7:30 PM, that evening.
Cian and David had left the younger vampires behind at a pub. They were meeting with Matwau and weren't inclined to annoy the master. They waited at a Starbucks on Layette Ave in Brooklyn, near a neurology clinic of some kind that he worked with. The view out the window was a perfect example of America, a small urban deli & grocery that looked like it had the same signage it had opened with sometime in the early 90's. Cian could picture Jay & Silent Bob hanging around out front of it with little difficulty. Like every other building in sight, it had apartments above. Cian had been around a few cities in his day, but nothing ever prepared him for the feeling of New York, or Brooklyn anyway, it was all the same to him.
Nothing ever prepared him for Matwau either. The tall, handsome, native American vampire walked into the busy coffee shop and sat down without ordering. He wore an expensive black and grey suit, too expensive for a doctor in any other country, but in America, it was probably normal, Cian thought. Money meant more to these people than survival, and their healthcare system proved it.
“Boys,” Matwau said, almost smiling. “Good to see you, how long has it been?”
“Not long enough mate,” Cian said.
"I summoned you for good purpose, Mr. Walsh."
"I know, the girl," Cian said, "how much trouble is she now? Tell us what we're dealing with.”
“She is insane I fear, and extremely powerful. I have recently spoken with a friend, you may remember Pavel.”
Cian nodded. “Yeah, the cowboy, fucking hate him. What'd he have to say?”
"He met our prey in the company of Sebastian up in Connecticut recently. She devoured him, nearly destroyed him. She had killed others of our kind. That's our most up-to-date contact, I found the house they were staying in, and it was empty."
“We can pick it up from there,” Cian said.
Matwau raised his hand. “No, as luck would have it, they've come here to New York, no need for further travel.”
“How's that?” Cian asked.
“He has bought a few things on his credit card since arriving, but not in a single location, he has not rented a car or hotel room. That is all largely irrelevant though, Niobe Valerius is in town, and her arrival is unlikely a coincidence. Sebastian summoned her, which means they are together.”
“Fuck me,” Cian said, shaking his head. “You called us to chase a newborn with unusual power levels, not a fucking ancient. And that French fuck? It's out of our league boss.”
“Relax boys,” Matwau said. “She is old, but not an ancient, and you are far from alone. I employ a good number of our kind. We are gathering even now at a park near her hotel. Please, join me, and we will have our cake before the night is done.”
“Only one thing boss, our pay,” Cian reminded.
“You boys drank our last angel dry, ate her flesh and bone,” Matwau said. “Your payment is the same, I only want the living brain. To... complete my collection.”
Cian looked for the first time at his partner. David gently nodded his consent.
“Deal,” Cian said.
Annette and Sebastian sat in a run-down 2010 Honda Civic, overlooking the city from the top floor of a car parkade tower off the Avenue of the Americas in lower Manhattan. It wasn't their car, it belonged to Sebastian's lunch, an unfortunate young artist. The man had several rolled-up paintings and a ton of art supplies in his car, which was a complete mess. Fast food wrappers and soda cans, ripped envelopes, plastic bags, an organic chaos that Annette respected. "What do you think he does for a living?" she asked.
Sebastian rose from the back seat, where he was devouring the artist's neck. "I don't like to think too much about that kind of thing," he said, then held up and unrolled one of the canvasses. "I'm guessing he sells some of these though, he's pretty good."
“You know art?” she asked, interested.
"I am French," Sebastian smiled and returned to his artist.
“Bullshit,” Annette said. “Just cause you're French doesn't make you some art expert.”
Sebastian took a moment to respond, raising again only when there was no blood left to drink. "It gives me a good edge anyway," he chuckled. "Actually, I studied art for years back home, before and after I was turned. I have work in galleries in Montpellier and Toulouse."
Annette picked up a hamburger wrapper and sniffed it, then turned to look at him. “Is that good?” she asked.
“It's not bad,” he said. “I can't take credit for them publicly anymore though, they're too old.”
“Fuck,” she said.
“A few European Vampires know they're mine,” Sebastian said. “I got invited to an orgy in Vatican City once because the host knew my work."
“There's vampires at the Vatican?” Annette asked.
"More than you'd believe," Sebastian said. "We like old-fashioned places and rich places."
“You done?” Annette asked.
"Yes," Sebastian said. "You want to drive? Somewhere remote, with dirt." He handed forward the artist's keys, the key chain had a tin Mickey Mouse souvenir on it.
“We're in fucking Manhattan,” Annette told him. “Where the fuck am I supposed to find dirt?”
“Easier than you'd guess,” Sebastian returned. “We're not far from Washington Square Park.”
“We're supposed to stroll in there with a dead body at eleven o'clock and bury it?”
“Worked for you,” Sebastian smiled. “I like to think it gives him a chance, leave it in the hands of the Gods.”
“Forget it,” she scolded, “who the hell has been coddling you all these years? It's fucking crazy, the FBI probably thinks you're a serial killer.”
“They'd be right,” Sebastian sighed, looking down at his artist. “Interpol is full of Vampires though, we take care of each other.”
“What the fuck is Interpol?” Annette asked.
“Like the FBI, but for the whole world,” he said, climbing awkwardly into the front passenger seat.
“We have that?” she asked.
“They don't teach you anything about the world outside the US here do they?” he said.
“They don't teach us anything,” Annette said, starting the car. “Fuck, I'm hungry too.”
Sebastian shrugged. “I expect you'll be fed soon enough, I'd be shocked if Matwau hadn't already tracked us to the city.”
"Yeah, I'll be fat and fucking happy," she said. The car moved smoothly out of the parking spot and down the light grade, around and around seemingly endlessly, spiralling toward ground level. "Except I won't be happy will I? she asked. "I'm going to be hungry forever, I'll get killed or I'll kill every vampire on the East Coast, maybe the planet, then what? And between meals, I'll starve. Am I supposed to hunt vampires forever?"
“Maybe you can eat a little at a time, some vampires do that with people.”
She scoffed. “Buddy, I could eat a dozen of you. I'm HUNGRY.”
Sebastian frowned and looked away. "That should pass somewhat as you get older," he said.
“Oh good, something to look forward to,” she scowled. “Why can't I just eat fucking people like everyone else? You did this to me, you and your stupid ritual. I won't let you do it to him, you just let him be fucking dead.” Her voice reached a pitch on the last word, a strong indicator that Sebastian should let the issue drop.
“I didn't ask to be born!” she said, and laughed at her own lame joke, breaking the tension that she knew she had created.
Sebastian smiled. “I guess I can let go of the habit now,” he said.
They reached ground level and pulled up behind a few other cars which were waiting to pay their toll and leave the parkade. "Don't you care about being on camera?" Annette asked.
“These days we always are,” Sebastian mused. “Stolen car, with a body, bad scene. I'm not worried though, no.”
He pulled ahead and fumbled with his wallet, producing a ten-dollar bill, and sticking it and the artist's parking receipt into the greedy machine. He took his change, and waited for the bar to rise, then drove out smoothly. "Too much chaos," he said. "I'm a white man in a sea of white men, I keep my clothes and hair fashionable, finding me would be an impossible task for the laudable NYPD.”
“Ever hear of facial recognition software?” Annette asked.
“That's a TV thing,” Sebastian responded. “It's not real.”
“Keep telling yourself that granddad,” Annette mumbled.
“That's real?” he asked, looking over at her.
She nodded. "I had a cell phone with a biometric login before you killed me and left me face down in a shallow grave."
“Really?” he said with genuine surprise.
“Really,” she stated. “Don't worry though, they don't use it in the US. China does though, it's everywhere, they track you through the streets there.”
“Remind me to get in touch with some of the Vampires I know over there and ask about how they deal with it,” Sebastian said.
"Sure, I'm your little helper now, am I? Vampire secretary?" she put on a manly voice. "Anne, take this down for me, reach out to foreign colleagues in regards to newfangled robot eyes."
“I don't sound like that,” Sebastian scolded.
“And I am not your fucking secretary. So where are we going?” She asked.
“I guess I don't really know, if we aren't burying him, then we can just dump him somewhere and move on with our lives, robot eyes aside.”
"After that, asshole," she said. "Like, what the fuck are we doing? Or was your whole plan to find me and be magically turned into an angel and ascend to heaven like the good soul you are?"
“Honestly, I don't think I ever really believed I'd succeed,” he said, taking a random left turn down West 29th.
“Holy shit,” Annette said a moment later. “That's Broadway!”
"Oh, yes I suppose it is," Sebastian said, noticing the cookie-cutter hotels and bars they were surrounded by. "Not quite the theatre district though, it's up a bit, shall we?"
She didn't say anything, but he took the left onto Broadway and drove up. Some things could even break through to a sarcastic young vampire, and the excitement of Broadway was one of them. At least in Annette's case. "You like theatre?" he asked.
“Sure,” she said, looking somewhat puzzled by the information. “Yes, I... I used to,” she stuttered.
“Some of that bleeds through,” he told her. “Don't mind the vampire pun. Seriously, you will find more and more of your original self come back to you in time. You know, I could get us into a show fairly easily. I have no other plans tonight.”
“How could you do that?” she asked.
“Niobe, my sire, she has a lot of influence. It would probably just take a phone call and the tickets would be waiting for us at the gate.”
"Do it," she shrugged and looked away from him.
Sebastian pulled the car over and took out his cell phone.
“No biometrics on that antique,” Annette snorted a laugh.
Sebastian ignored her and made the call. "Niobe, thank you for answering," he started. "No, no, we were..." he listened for a moment. "Perhaps later, we were wondering if you could pull a string or two, and get us into one of the shows down on Broadway tonight." He listened again while she spoke. "The Lyceum, thank you," he said. "Yes, afterwards at the Lighthouse taverna, that sounds lovely. Kiss." He touched the phone to end the call. "Anne, take this down for me," he teased, "She owns a stake in a theatre on West 45th, just around the corner from Planet Hollywood. They're putting on something modern, and her seats are ours tonight, providing we meet her for drinks later.”
“Seriously?” Annette asked.
“Seriously,” he nodded. “There are perks to being in our little club. Welcome to the jet-set.”
Annette smiled. Inwardly, she felt a little strange, it was Zosimus, niggling at her mind. She felt close. Not here, not yet, but getting closer by the moment.
Joe Matwau smiled as Niobe hung up the phone. “Our friends?” he asked, knowing the answer. He had overheard the whole conversation and she knew it.
They were in Niobe's hotel suite, a classic 1940s-style setup she had maintained for her year-round. More of an apartment with room service than a normal rental. The theme was classy tropical, with fern print wallpaper, decadent furnishings with a lot of dark wood and brass, and real potted plants. Matwau liked it, it felt like a film set from the long-gone days of Hollywood glamour.
"Of course," Niobe said, slithering back to her couch. "You are playing a dangerous game, Joe," she said gently, "I don't like being pressured."
Matwau looked from her to Cian, and his Irish thugs, then back at the elegant vampire in front of him. "I don't like to use pressure, but these are extraordinary circumstances. She is our future."
"You're the scientist, Joe," Niobe said. She pulled a cigarette out of a golden case and lit it from a jade table lighter. She made eye contact with him again. "Don't bore me with all that, just tell me one little thing, are you planning on killing my little Sebastian?"
“If I have to, I won't lose sleep over it,” Matwau said flatly. “He has been helpful, but he annoys me, and he seems to be in the way.”
“He has been good company for a long time,” Niobe said. “You just met him recently didn't you?”
“Yes, so what?” Matwau said.
“I met him I think,” David said from behind the couch. “Fifty years ago when I was down in Drumalee. We played darts.”
"That wasn't him, an' shut the fuck up," Cian scolded his counterpart.
Joe scowled at the pair and returned his attention to Niobe, who smiled at him as she smoked. "I could paint a portrait of him as a dangerous man, but that would be true of any vampire."
“Some more than others,” Matwau said. “But go on, it kills some time.”
"Sebastian is a keen one, perhaps the most driven vampire I have ever known," she said. "He has been travelling the world meeting ancients and elders for fifty years because Albanus the Pompeian told him a fairy tale about the blessing of Hades. Before that, he travelled the world studying history, art and music, he was always in libraries and galleries, even at his home he was surrounded by dusty old books. He is, I think, the greatest scholar of our kind."
“I respect that, even if I find history to be... backwards thinking,” Matwau laughed at his own joke. “We should worry more about the future.”
“You should worry more about the past Joe,” she said. “Sebastian is my greatest accomplishment in this world. The relationship between us is unique and potent. Who was your Sire Joe, oh don't tell me, it was that Spaniard wasn't it? Antonia De Cuellar.”
“Yes,” Matwau shifted in his seat. He didn't like thinking about his sire, it had not been a friendly relationship. Matwau had killed him centuries ago.
“I remember Antonia,” she said. “He was a talented carpenter, wasted himself on adventure. Do you know who my sire is?”
“Do I have any reason to care?” Matwau asked, leaning over to pour himself a glass of rum from the antique decanter on the table.
“You do,” she said. “You certainly do. I haven't sensed her in longer than I can remember. She is barely a dream anymore, I can't place her features in my mind at all. I think it would be best to say I remember remembering her.”
“An ancient?” he asked, actually growing curious.
"Yes," she said. "Very, very ancient. I was turned in Rome you know, I came over from Egypt with Cleopatra. I was a priestess of Isis. Oh, my Cleopatra. That's a face I will never forget, I still have a bust of her. What a lover, what a goddess. I worshipped her."
“Liar,” Matwau shook his head.
Cian came around and poured himself a drink, "Don' mind do ya?" he asked without pausing for an answer. He sat down across from Matwau and Niobe in a wicker chair and leaned in. "Didj'a really know Cleopatra?" he asked.
Niobe laughed. “I did, but Joe is right, I never slept with her. I like to embellish a little.”
“Is there a point?” Matwau asked.
“Yes, and it'll be here in less than a minute,” she said. “You see Joe, I can sense her right now. My maker, my sire. It's the strangest thing, I smell her, I feel her, she's a physical presence, but I know she isn't quite here yet, she's delaying in the elevator, looking at her reflection in the glass. Would you like to guess her name?”
"Bullshit," Matwau said, raising to his feet. "Cian, send one of your boys to check it out and see if anyone is there."
“Andy, Mick, that's you,” Cian said. “David stay put, might be a trick.”
Andy and Mick, who had learned well to be obedient, left without comment through the light green door into the hall. Their footsteps could be heard for a moment on the carpet outside.
“Her name?” Niobe prompted. “Care to guess?”
“Is it Cleopatra?” Cian said, leaning in with a wicked smile.
Niobe looked at him and shook her head. "No, wouldn't that be something?" She laughed again and put out her cigarette. The smoke curled luxuriously through the air. She sipped at her drink and clinked her ice against the glass. "Her name was, and is again, Zosimus."
Joe Matwau stood shock upright from his chair. “Fuck you, it's a lie,” he said.
“Go ask your gentleman friends,” she said. “Say, shouldn't they be back by now? Unless they ran into some problem?”
“Who the fuck is that?” Cian said, some concern apparent in his tone. “Zosimus?”
“The mother of us all,” Matwau said. “The demon queen.”
"It's bullshit," Cian said, getting up to go to the door. It opened just as he got to it. He staggered back, seeing what the others could not from their perspective in the room. Cian almost fell over backward, then shrieked. "Holy mother of fuck!" He pulled a gun from his denim jacket pocket and fired five shots, then she stepped out into view.
Matwau felt cold, he felt afraid. The woman who just stepped into the room was diminutive and pretty, but not outstanding in any characteristic. Her aura, however, was magnificent. He was shocked that he hadn't felt it sooner. Much sooner. She had blood on her hands, Matwau knew who it belonged to.
The strange woman decapitated Cian with a flick of her arm. His head fell onto the wicker chair he had been sitting in a moment ago, the jaw worked as though he was trying to speak, his eyes frantically darting from Matwau to David, to Niobe, begging for help.
Niobe sat calmly, legs crossed, on her couch, but her eyes were wide. She was afraid too. Matwau didn't wait for more, he leapt through the nearest plate window, flinging himself into the air twelve stories above ground. The shattering glass fell with him, he had never felt so suddenly afraid, not once since he had been turned. This new player was impossible. A legend surrounded by myth. Zosimus. Zosimus. Zosimus.
He smashed into the ground, and got up, terrifying several mortal onlookers. They were experiencing the supernatural for the first time in their lives, their absolute terror a parody of his own. He ignored them and ran.
Zosimus looked at Niobe and remembered her. She took the blood of David into herself, a kiss sweet and deep, and forever long. He screamed while she did it, and thrashed like a reed in a windstorm. When she was done, she discarded the body out of the broken window.
Niobe rose slowly to her feet and offered her rum to the goddess in front of her.
Zosimus took it and drank. Then she kissed Niobe. Not a word was exchanged, they fell together onto the couch, and passion overtook them both.
Cian watched, dying, the light inside his unburdened head dimming.
The play was good.
Beside her, Sebastian's eyes glittered in the darkness.
He was beautiful, she thought.
He was beautiful.
Zosimus was having sex, and Annette felt it between her thighs.
Pulsing, pressing, urging.
She grabbed at Sebastian's manhood.
In the darkness, she pulled it out and held it.
She needed not to ask for his response. The magic was strong.
End. Part XI
Dans le Vif du Sujet.
Virginité et Innocence.
2023 Halloween special.
Annette and Sebastian left the play early, but not the building. In a secret closet, behind the stage and the busy dressing areas and set storage, they found silence and stillness to disturb. Annette had wanted to save herself for Zosimus, but Zosimus wanted her to be rampant. The goddess was in her thoughts, pressing and urging Annette's body to action. She tore off her pants and threw them into a corner before Sebastian had even closed the door. He was trying to be slow and seductive, but she wanted none of that. She jumped at him, wrapping her legs around his waist, and sucking at his thin, hard lips. She knew this was out of character for her, but she needed it. Any lingering self-promises or hopes were incinerated by her desire.
Sebastian tried to pull back, she pushed him up against a wall and held him. Finally, he began to understand and move with her. His pants fell, and she dropped to her knees to pull him into her mouth. It was hard and ready, she needed to do little work here except to wet it. She rose, and turned around, giving him access to her love. He needed no more instruction but took what they both wanted. Inside her, he pulsed and rocked. There was little pain to her surprise. She had always expected it, the theory of pain had been a significant factor in her delay. Puritanical Christian lies, She wondered? Another trick of the vampire's kiss? Or just the off-colour of other people's less pleasurable experience? It didn't matter, she was happy and wanted more.
She pulled forward, turned, and kicked Sebastian's feet out from under him. He hit the ground hard with a shocked grunt, but before he could react further, she was on top of him. The tiny closet betrayed them, and something heavy and rectangular hit her in the head, white powdered soap flew and scattered. She ignored it. She rocked back and forth, pressing herself harder and harder down on him, pulling as much of him into her as she could. His hands found her breasts, and her pleasure flowed. She came, shivering and convulsing in an intensity she had never experienced alone. He was not yet finished, still moving inside her, his hips gentle and steady. She nearly pulled off but found a new wave of pleasure to surf. She came twice more before he did.
“Saint putain d'enfer,” he breathed when she collapsed on top of him.
"Speak English, you Euro-trash Vampire fuck," she laughed and rolled off him.
He laughed at her irreverence. “I said, Holy fucking hell.”
“Good, yeah,” began laughing harder. “What was it?”
“Putain is fucking,” he said, “d'enfer is like inferno, right? Hell.”
“Putain d'enfer,” she repeated loudly, then laughed again. “I just lost my V-card.”
“What?” he looked surprised. His eyes were wide, his mouth open a little.
“What's the matter?” she pouted at him. “You never take the innocence from a girl before?”
He seemed to consider the matter, then smiled. “You were fantastic,” he said.
“You too,” she acknowledged. “I want a smoke so bad, I tried one a while back and it tasted like shit though.”
“Yes,” he nodded. “There are ways to make them good for us though, soak the tobacco in wine or dark rum, add some sugars. Don't ever smoke them stale. It's not too complicated.”
“Where can we get them?” She asked.
“Niobe will probably have some,” he told her.
“Your sire,” she said. “We're supposed to meet her soon.”
“Yes,” he said. “If you don't want to finish the show.”
She bit her lip and thought for a moment. “Fuck, right. Let's see the end of it.” She stood up and started brushing the soap off her clothing, then dressed and straightened up. Sebastian did the same.
They stepped out of the little closet and found their lust had gone unnoticed. They returned to their seats and stayed until the final curtain.
Zosimus waited for Niobe to return from the washroom. Little Niobe had always been obsessed with hygiene, and this modern world seemed to have adopted that from her. Zosimus was amused. She stood, crossed the room, and poured herself a drink from a well-stocked wet bar. Hotel service had improved since she last walked the Earth, she thought. Spiced whisky, strong, but flavourful. She drank deeply and then walked back to the lounge, where she picked up the head of the vampire she had earlier discarded. She kissed the dead lips and breathed life back into them. Its eyes fluttered open, and its mouth worked in pain, opening and closing silently.
"Dream of me, and I will dream you flesh," She told it. "Worship your goddess."
The head begged silently for life. No one ever begged for death, that was a literary lie. Everyone in her experience begged for the same thing, to be alive and far away from Zosimus.
Behind her, Cian's body shook and convulsed. It slowly forced itself up to a standing position, and stepped toward her, nearly falling. She turned and held the head above the shattered remains of its life. She turned it back and forth for a moment, contemplating it as though it were a lovely painted vase or something else sweet to the eye. Its eyes rolled and bulged in pain and sickness.
Blood rose and reached from the torso, and pulled the head back down. Zosimus held it gently, aware that her little Noibe had returned and was watching. She liked to show off for Niobe, this magic was darker than anything that the world still knew how to name. It deserved an audience.
Cian began to howl in bubbling horror. Blood splashed from his mouth and slobbered down his chin. His body shook like it was filled with beetles. Zosimus let him fall, intact and awake. Cian wept and screamed and clutched at the air. He was not in control yet, but he would be soon.
Zosimus turned to Niobe and smiled. “He is mine now,” she told the beautiful woman she had sired so many centuries ago.
“As am I, my queen,” Niobe said, but now that we may speak, I have to wonder why you have returned. I thought I would never see you again.”
Zosimus smiled and went back to the wet bar for another cup of whisky. “You know why I am here,” she said softly.
“I do, but we should speak,” Niobe said.
Zosimus flirted with her eyes. “My Niobe,” she spoke in ancient Nubian. In life, Niobe had mostly spoken Greek, but this language meant more to her. “I am here because I heard the voice of a spirit calling to me from deep inside my dream. Annette. I come for her."
“To kill her or to give her your love?” Niobe asked.
Cian pulled himself up to a standing position, and he coughed up a little more blood, distracting the two women. He had nothing to say yet. His eyes were wide with terror but he was held by Zosimus's power.
“That is up to her,” Zosimus said. “But I do not think she wants to die. I think I have finally found the conduit I have sought since I was a child.”
“An oracle?” Niobe asked. “You always wanted to find a way to talk to the Gods.”
“Gods,” Zosimus smiled. “I have spoken to Gods. The girl cannot.”
“Then what is she to you?” Niobe asked.
“Annette is the stars,” Zosimus told her. “She is light unshielded. She is that which we were always meant to be. She is the mother of hope.”
“You are being deliberately obtuse,” Niobe said, frustrated.
“Zosimus embraced her lover. “You will, she is coming now. Matwau hunts her, but this test I must see her face.”
“Matwau will kill her,” Niobe said, pulling back. “She may be strong, but he is very old.”
“He may,” Zosimus admitted with emotion on her face. She looked at Cian. “So may our little Cian, but this too I must see through. Go little one, try to destroy our destiny.”
Cian nodded in confusion, but he understood very clearly that he would do anything this woman told him to. Should she speak the order, he would throw himself into the sun. He left without a word.
“I am tired,” Zosimus announced. “I have not slept since I rose from the cemetery vault.”
“I shouldn't think you would want to,” Niobe said.
“I am not a god, as it happens,” Zosimus admitted. “Even I must realign my spirit in sleep.”
“But we, or at least I am supposed to meet them at the Taverna,” Niobe said. “I thought you might like the food, it is good.”
“She will not reach it tonight,” Zosimus said, drifting toward the soft white bed in the adjoining chamber. “Are you coming Niobe?”
Niobe looked out the window at the dark city. She let her mind be blank for a second. Then, she followed her master. Questioning Zosimus was a game for fools.
Joe Matwau waited in the lee of a graffiti-covered wall for the car he had called. He was in a state of panic that he had not experienced in over two hundred years. In America there was not a single ancient who frightened him, in Europe, Asia, and Africa there were a few that he would handle carefully if he had to, but there was none like he had experienced tonight. Zosimus. A dead witch from a forgotten time, a vampire to rival those who had come down from the world before time began. She was not the first of the blood, but to Joe's knowledge, she might be the oldest vampire on Earth. But then of course, if she was still alive, who knew what other horrors still lurked beneath the fertile soil? He had always heard stories of the eldest, some were fairy tales, some were true, tales of the sires of sires. Joe thought of himself as a forward thinker, but you could not escape the past. Stories were told. In them, Zosimus was always a devil. Her presence in any story meant it would end badly and with much bloodshed.
A heavy black car pulled up, and the door lock popped up. Joe stepped to the curb and slid inside the comfort of the car. Inside were two of his fellow vampiric surgeons, Dr. List and Moore. Dr. Moore was driving, and Dr. List was in the passenger's seat.
"Hey boss," Dr. Moore said. He was a balding African American with a black beard. He looked old for a vampire, having been turned late at sixty-three. In contrast, Dr. List was a curvaceous young woman with a ruddy complexion. She annoyed Joe regularly but was a brilliant mind. Dr. Moore was a hack, but he was a willing hack, if Joe needed dirty work done, Dr. Moore never shirked it.
"She's close, and we need her now more than ever," Joe spat out. He knew he looked wild, the expressions on their faces were enough to tell him they were rattled. "We have a serious problem."
“The latest update had little to add,” Dr. List told him. “We still don't have a location.”
“What do we have?” Joe asked, smoothing his hair back and trying to collect himself.
“She's definitely with Sebastian,” Dr. List said. “They dropped a body in a dumpster just off Broadway, One of our friends at the police department called that in.”
“Where? How do we know it was them?” Joe asked.
"Local vamps are careful, and high class. They use the body disposal service. This isn't a New Yorker."
“It's them,” Dr. Moore added.
“Where?” Joe repeated.
“Behind Planet Hollywood on West 45th.” Dr. List said.
“Niobe owns a theatre near there,” Joe said, rubbing his chin. “She arranged tickets for me a few times. That's where they are.”
“You think they're taking in a show?” Dr. Moore asked.
“Yes,” Joe replied. Get us there, right now. Did you bring the kit, or do I have to rip her brain out with my own hands?”
“We brought a full surgical bag,” Dr. List told him.
Dr. Moore made a left turn. “Two minutes if traffic is good.”
Joe stared out the window. It was starting to rain. Spatters of water tapped the glass.
Sebastian and Annette stepped out into the rain, laughing at an inside joke based on the ending of the play.
“Are you ready for this?” Sebastian asked her.
“For Zosimus?” Annette asked. “Yes.”
“What?” Sebastian said, confused. “For Niobe,” he paused. “You mentioned Zosimus before, I wanted to talk to you about that.”
“I'm not hungry,” Annette said to herself, seemingly lost in the thought. “I was starving, now I'm not.”
“Good,” he said. “About Zosimus though...”
“I don't want to talk about her,” Annette said, smiling at him “Let's go to the place, what was it again?”
“The Lighthouse Taverna,” Sebastian told her. “Greek food,” he added.
“Ooooh, garlic!” She teased. “Living dangerously are we?”
Sebastian laughed. “It's this way up 7th, it isn't far, let's walk.”
“Are you in tune with her?” Annette asked.
“With Niobe?” Sort of,” he said.
"Hey, what time do you think it is?" she asked.
“That show went pretty late, I'd say it's about ten.”
“Seems like it's been a long night,” she commented.
He smiled. “The sun sets early this time of year, it is much better for us. We all hate the summer.”
“Holy shit, this is really Times Square,” Annette said.
“Does it hold up to expectations?” he asked.
“Yeah, look at me, I'm a tourist!” She took imaginary photographs with her hands held up in a square. Her face contorted in a squint as though she was peering through a vintage camera's viewfinder.
“How do you know to do that?” He asked. “Shouldn't you pretend to have a cell phone?”
“I took a photography class in high school,” she told him. “I used an old film camera for the entire year, it was pretty fly.”
Sebastian looked away, trying to see the world through her eyes. The lights and life of Times Square had an effect like few other places in the world. It was uniquely American, the mecca of capitalism. Coca-Cola, Walt Disney, Levis, and Hershey's Chocolate. The American flag dressed in twinkling lights proudly showcased an Armed Forces recruitment station directly in front of a Hard Rock Cafe. What, he wondered, was more American than military violence and rock & roll?
It was, he marveled, perfect.
Annette had gotten ahead of him, she was quick, too quick really. He caught up and pulled at her arm. “Please at least pretend to be human in public, dear,” he whispered.
“Fuck off,” she shrugged off his hand and scowled. “Where is this place?”
“A couple blocks up,” he told her. They walked on in silence, her eyes darting this way and that as they always seemed to be doing. He wondered what she was taking in, and what was just going to be a glossy haze in her memory.
“That's them,” Joe said. He was shocked to have found them so easily after such a long game. “That's them, pull over!” It was unmistakable, this close to her, he could feel her aura like an electric charge in the air.
An ambulance whooped its lights and sirens as they slowed, but pulled around them and tried to speed off, but was soon blocked again. The noise made them both look up. In her eyes, Joe saw death. She knew he was there just as well as he knew her. She smiled and stopped, then made a strange invisible camera-click gesture at their car. Oblivious, Sebastian kept walking.
Joe couldn't just grab her off the street, not here in Times Square. This was not an ideal way to find them. He contemplated it anyway.
“Stop the car,” he said.
Dr. Moore stopped the car.
Annette walked right up and opened the door, arrogant and wilful, she had escaped in a panic, but now she was in her power, or so she thought. Sebastian seemed to realize what was happening and turned around. He looked surprised and worried.
“Get in my dear,” Joe calmly told Annette.
“Fifty bucks mister,” she smiled. “My pimp is mean, cash only.”
“Get the fuck in the car,” Joe repeated.
Sebastian came close enough to join in the conversation. “Dr. Matwau,” he said. “To what do we owe this unexpected honour?”
“Just get in the car, both of you,” Joe scolded.
"What do you say, Annette?" Sebastian offered. "I know you were looking forward to seeing Joe again."
“Yeah, that's true, I was.” She looked up at the sky. “Well, since the weather's so shitty, why not?” She leaned in and looked at Joe and his companions in the front seats. “I remember you,” She told them. “You were there in the hospital.”
“You bet.” Dr. Moore laughed.
“We met briefly,” Dr. List agreed.
Annette slid into the car, and Joe followed. It wasn't cramped in the backseat even with all three of them.
“Get us out of here,” Joe said.
“We have an appointment to keep, Joe,” Sebastian instructed. “It wouldn't be civil to be late, why not take us to the Greek Taverna up the road a little and we'll all have a nice dinner and talk. You've met Niobe?”
Joe smiled unpleasantly. “I have, recently, we are not going to meet her I'm afraid.”
“Such a shame,” Joe sighed. “Well then, Annette, air your grievances why don't you?”
"Air my grievances," she said. "Damn you vampires are pretentious, aren't you? So fucking formal." She watched out the window and pointed as they passed the Lighthouse Taverna. When no one said anything else, she shrugged. "So much for manners I guess."
“Our business must be kept away from mortal civilization,” Joe said. “This, Annette, is your only chance for peace. I will not extend it any further.” He growled. “DO I have your full surrender?”
“What?” She leaned in. “Oh? Fuck no. Not at all. I'm going to kill you all right here in this car. Feel free to drive around a bit first through, I've never been in a Mercedes.”
“This is actually a Bentley,” Dr. Moore countered. “A 2012 Flying Spur. All the options.”
“Fuck, wow, really?” she mocked. “Hey, does anyone have one of those vampire cigarettes with the wine and rum and all that?”
“I'd give it to her,” Sebastian mused.
“Your threats are empty,” Joe growled. “You will not survive any violence you engage us with. Let's be clear on that.”
"Why do you think I'm going to roll over and take it Joey?" she asked. "You want to dissect me, don't you? You want to pull my brain out and put it in a jar and poke it with needles. Would I sort of be alive in that jar? I would I bet. Why should I ever do anything but try to kill you?"
“I was really hoping for a nice evening,” Sebastian sighed.
Several things happened at once. Annette lunged forward over the seat and grabbed Dr. Moore by the neck. Sebastian leaned back straight and held his breath. Joe snarled and grabbed at Annette's arm. Dr. List shrieked, pulled a gun up from her lap and fired at Annette. It was a large pistol, a German Luger that had seen her through World War two, on the wrong side. Annette took the round in her shoulder as she tore Dr. Moore's neck in half with her bare hands. The car careened into a wall and hit with force. Everyone was thrown forward, but none through the windshield. Annette landed in the front seat, free for a moment from Joe's grasp. She took the second she needed to grab the gun out of Dr. List's hands and shoot her in the face. A vampire was not going to die from bullets, but neither would they endure the experience without scars. Dr. List's left eye vanished in darkness, and the back of her head opened like a door. Annette put two rounds into Joe's chest, who only grunted and reached forward for Annette.
"Damn it to hell," Sebastian said as he grappled onto Joe and tried to hold him. Wrestling the older vampire was futile, but he was committed now. Annette half crawled over the seat and shot Joe again, point blank in the belly. Joe took it without notice, and grabbed at her hair, he failed to find purchase in her short curls. They tackled each other, biting and snarling. Sebastian tried to hold Joe, but he was like a doll being worn as a backpack.
Chaos. People outside were screaming. The car had hit someone, more than one someone. Sebastian bit into Joe's neck. It was like biting into a pine tree, but Sebastian bit hard. Blood touched his lips. Annette shot him again, this time in the jaw, narrowly missing Sebastian's head. Joe slumped and convulsed. Annette took advantage and ripped at him with her teeth. Her bite was stronger than Sebastian's, Joe's blood sprayed on the glass and he shouted as he fell more. She had hit the neuroscientist in the brain. Poetry, Sebastian had the presence of mind to think. He bit harder, knowing the old vampire would recover from even such a terrible bullet wound.
Annette needed no instruction. She drank deeply, ripping at Joe's throat with her hands as she did. She was soaked in his blood, the picture of a monster.
Sebastian leaned back. “He's dead,” he told her.
She kept ripping and tearing, and drinking, and snarling. It was like watching a wolf savaging a deer.
“HE'S DEAD!” Sebastian shouted. “We have to go, I hear sirens!”
Annette broke, gasping for breath, eyes wild. She barely seemed to recognize Sebastian.
“We have to go, now!” he told her, pushing Joe's body off himself.
“Dead?” she questioned, looking at the elder vampire with fear and confusion in her eyes.
“He wasn't invincible, we do die,” he told her as he forced the car door open. “He's dead, trust me.”
"We do?" she asked. She let him pull her out onto the street. People were everywhere, staring, filming, running, screaming. Two foot-patrol policemen were running toward them, guns drawn. In the distance, red and blue flashed in the still-falling rain.
Sebastian yanked her out of the car, and into the open street. They ran together to the nearest side street, West 37th. They rushed down the street, guns firing behind them and missing, to their fortune.
Annette grabbed his hand and lurched forward. People moved for them in a wave. They blurred past, far faster than they should have moved in front of humans. Their feet barely touched the sidewalk. Annette was powerful, she pulled at Sebastian like an angry mother out shopping with a reluctant child. The blood ran off her in the rain and wind, and he wondered at her again. What a strange and driven creature, such power, such anger. He wondered if she was doomed, or blessed. They fled, long after the policemen gave up their chase, they fled hand in hand into the night.
Cian watched them run and followed at a distance. He could hardly believe what was happening, Sebastian and the girl had killed Joe. Zosimus, whatever she was, had killed and resurrected him. There were forces at work here much larger than any he had seen before, and he was lost in it all. Lost or not, he would do his best to survive it, and that meant killing the girl as Zosimus had commanded. He would not take a simple approach as Joe had done, the old vampire was too arrogant. Cian considered things carefully as he tailed the other vampires. The best tool for this job, he determined, was a rife with a scope. He would have to chase them to the ground, wait for them to slow down and get comfortable somewhere, then Cian would have to source a gun. Luckily, this was America, he could buy or steal one just about anywhere.
His new master was much more interesting and much more powerful than his last. He would not fail her.
Zosimus lay next to Niobe in silence,
seeing through Annette's eyes,
feeling through her skin.
Joe Matwau was Annette's first test, and it was passed.
Cian was a careful stalker, a methodical killer, he could be a difficult challenge.
“Annette must be tested further,” Zosimus said softly.
“Why?” Niobe queried.
“She is rage. From her, we need order.”
“To what end?” Niobe asked.
“To all ends that may come,” Zosimus said.
“To the end of all things.”